Baker seeks to extend unblemished mark

Singles state champion, who has not lost a set, leads Glenelg girls team

Tennis

March 20, 2002|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

There may not be much suspense on the way to the 2002 Maryland state girls singles title, because Glenelg junior Marianne Baker is back.

Baker, who sat out her freshman year so she could concentrate on an out-of-school tournament schedule, burst onto the scene as a sophomore by not losing a set on the way to the state singles championship. Since then, Baker has played in several national tournaments and earned the No. 1 ranking in the Mid-Atlantic section's 16-and-under division, the No. 4 ranking in the 18-and-under division, and the No. 97 ranking in the United States Tennis Association's 16-and-under age group.

Baker will miss up to four matches this season to play national tournaments in California and Florida. But her Glenelg team, the defending Howard County girls champion, should manage considering Gladiators No. 2 Julia Facchina (No. 42 Mid-Atlantic 16-and-under) was unbeaten last year in the county with the exception of two losses to Baker in the county and regional championships.

"I don't think they have a problem with me going off to tournaments," Baker said of her teammates. "I have faith in them. They'll do fine."

On the boys side in Howard County, two-time defending champion River Hill is still the team to beat, returning the county's boys Player of the Year in senior Britt Boras. But Boras (No. 88 Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under) could struggle early in the season, as he is still recovering from a broken ankle he suffered three months ago. Plus, 2000 Howard County singles champion Rohan Nabar of Mount Hebron (No. 19 Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under) will be back after sitting out a year; he is the favorite to claim his second singles title in three years.

MIAA

In the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, where Baltimore's most competitive tennis is played, the singles title will be up for grabs as a result of the absence of Calvert Hall junior Joey Atas.

Atas, the two-time defending MIAA champion and top-ranked player in the Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under age group, will sit the season out to concentrate on a national tournament schedule. Calvert Hall's Gary Simonette, an All-Baltimore City/County selection last season as a freshman, should capably fill his position. Ranked No. 7 in the Mid-Atlantic 16-and-under division and No. 11 in the 18-and-under age group, he swept the conference's No. 2 flight last season. Junior Jon Malooly (No. 45 Mid-Atlantic 16-and- under) will step into the Cardinals' No. 2 spot.

"It was tough hearing Joey wasn't going to play, and it's going to be tougher for the team," said Simonette, whose Calvert Hall team is the defending MIAA champion. "We're going to need support from the whole team."

Other top contenders in the MIAA include senior Justin Rofel of Gilman (No. 13 Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under); junior Brian Crook of Loyola (No. 17 Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under); and junior Hillen Smith (No. 31 Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under) of Boys' Latin. Among the teams, Calvert Hall, St. Paul's, McDonogh and Gilman are all expected to be competitive.

"Without Atas playing, it opens things up for a number of teams," said Rofel, who lost to Atas three times last season, including in the conference No. 1 singles championship match. "Doubles is going to be very important this year. It's going to be interesting."

Baltimore County

In Baltimore County, where boys and girls play on one team, Pikesville's years of dominance will once again be seriously challenged by upstart Franklin. Last season, the Indians tied Pikesville for the county championship, and they look even stronger this season.

Franklin returns its top two female players, girls state finalist Beatrice Grasu and county singles champion Brooke Rogers. Both juniors, Rogers played No. 1 last year while Grasu recovered from surgery on both her feet. Grasu then defeated Rogers in the regional championship and lost only in the state final to Baker.

The Indians also will be bolstered on the boys side by Spanish exchange student Jake Benzal, whom 21st-year coach Warren White called, "The best player I have watched compared to any team we've competed against."

A young Pikesville team is led by junior No. 1 singles player Matt Jacobson (No. 57 Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under), but has no seniors among its male contingent.

The top returning individual in Baltimore County is Dulaney junior Chase Dawson (No. 15 Mid-Atlantic 18-and-under), the two-time defending county singles champion. Dawson advanced to the final of last year's state tournament before falling to state champion Jason Pinsky from Churchill of Montgomery County.

Anne Arundel County

Also playing in a county with mixed teams, Severna Park is heavily favored to capture another county championship. The Falcons have taken the title in all three years of coach April Quigley's tenure and return the bulk of their team.

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