Killer Bees' friendly rivalry gives Franklin strong 1-2 punch

Indians' top players have ruled county singles

High Schools

Tennis

April 08, 2003|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

As two of the top high school tennis players in the state, Franklin seniors Beatrice Grasu and Brooke Rogers have every reason to be embroiled in a fierce rivalry.

After all, they not only compete for the No. 1 singles ranking on their own team, but they contend for regional and state high school championships. They're also long-time competitors on the junior tennis circuit - Grasu is ranked fourth in the U.S. Tennis Association's Mid-Atlantic girls 18's, Rogers 31st.

However, these 17-year-olds have not let the competitive nature of the sport win out. Instead, they built a friendship around their common interest.

"We're competitive on the court," said Rogers, "but we really like each other off the court."

The two have been fast friends since they met as 10-year-olds at Camp Holiday in Reisterstown, where they used to get up early to play tennis before breakfast.

Even in the often dog-eat-dog world of junior tennis, they travel to tournaments together, hang out when they get a break and meet for lunch. Twice, they joined forces as double partners for the Maccabi Games, winning a silver medal as seventh-graders in Detroit and a gold medal as ninth-graders in Tucson.

At Franklin, the seniors have dominated Baltimore County for three years, winning every regular-season match and five county singles crowns between them. Their freshman season was so successful that a Franklin tennis parent dubbed them the Killer Bees.

Despite foot surgery in her sophomore year and a bout with mononucleosis a year ago - both of which sidelined her until late in the season - Grasu has emerged as the dominant player of the two. Grasu, ranked 60th in the nation in girls 18's by the USTA, finished second every year at the state tournament, falling the past two years to Glenelg's Marianne Baker.

Twice Grasu beat Rogers in the Region VI final.

"She's the toughest person I've every played against," said Rogers. "She's so mentally tough. You can win the first set and be up 5-0 and you still have a chance to lose. She fights for every point. She's very crafty."

Grasu, a confirmed baseliner, admits she would like to have a bit more of Rogers' versatility in her own game.

"She comes in willingly when the short ball comes up," said Grasu, "and she just gets everything back. As a practice partner, that's excellent. As a match situation, it gets a little rough."

To Franklin coach Warren White, the Killer Bees are as good as they are because they push each other every day in practice.

"If you want to improve, you have to play people who give you a good challenge," said White. "The wonderful thing for the two of them is that they have each other."

What the Killer Bees enjoy most about competing for Franklin, however, has nothing to do with the individual titles.

"What's great is the teammates aspect, especially for such an individual sport," said Grasu. "It prepares you for college tennis and it's really fun. I love cheering for my teammates and watching them play."

"You don't get that anywhere else," said Rogers, "especially in a tournament, because everyone else is rooting against you."

Grasu and Rogers have helped continue an Indians tennis tradition that includes a 61-match winning streak against regular-season opponents that began five years ago. They also helped Franklin tie Pikesville for the county team championship two years ago - a remarkable accomplishment, because Pikesville has ruled the county 37 of the past 39 years.

"Having the two of them makes [Franklin] very formidable for us to try and beat in the county championships," said Pikesville coach Jerry Dresner. "They're both very good for their team, and they have a very good team attitude."

Grasu is healthy and back in the No. 1 singles spot this season after coming back late in the season to win the past two county titles in No. 2 singles. Rogers stepped into the No. 1 spot the past two seasons, winning the county title two years ago and falling to Catonsville freshman Ashley Harvey last season.

Despite the ups and downs, White has never seen anything that would endanger the Killer Bees' friendship.

"That isn't the easiest relationship," said White. "Here you have two people with outstanding tennis ability. At almost any other school, Brooke would be No. 1, and here, she's No. 2 because they've played and Beatrice has earned that right. Watching them on the court in the way they deal with each other is exactly the way you would hope they would."

Both girls have committed to college programs. Grasu, who carries a 3.85 grade point average, has accepted a scholarship to play at Richmond, where she will study biology and work toward becoming a doctor. Rogers, with a 3.67 GPA, is headed for Maryland, where she plans to study communications, looking toward a career in journalism or public relations.

Right now, White doesn't want to think that far ahead. Dresner, however, does.

"I've been really happy watching the Bees compete, and I'll be really happy to see the Bees graduate," said Dresner, with a laugh.

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