Adult tennis team wins a national title

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

October 26, 2003|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

THIS IS getting to be a nice habit, reporting at this time of year about another national title for a Howard County team in U.S. Tennis Association league play. This makes two straight years.

Congratulations are due to members of a team led by Ellicott City's Marc Schneebaum. The team not only won national honors for 4.5-level adult players - meaning a relatively high skill level - but also did it in near-perfect fashion.

After the team's first match in Columbia league play, in fact, a national title seemed a distant hope. Schneebaum's team lost.

But he and his players wouldn't lose again as a team, posting a composite 20-1 record in winning the league title, the Maryland state championship, the Mid-Atlantic regional and, earlier this month, the nationals in Tucson, Ariz.

"I knew that we had great players, but when you go into this, you don't really know how good you are until you get to nationals," Schneebaum said. "When we drew a team from Southern California in the first round of nationals, I knew they'd be good. But I told our players, if we beat them, we have a chance at winning the whole thing. And that's what happened."

The locally based squad of 14 players, 12 of whom traveled to Arizona, includes five Baltimoreans, with the rest living in Howard County. The core of the team has been together four years, Schneebaum said.

Schneebaum's team came close two years ago.

"We finished second in sectionals to a team from Richmond, Va., losing the deciding match, 3-2, in a tie-breaker, 10-8," he said. "That Richmond team then won nationals."

In this fall's national semifinals, the locals defeated a team from El Paso, Texas, 4-1. The final match was against a team from Freemont Tennis Club in San Jose, Calif., which fell, 3-2. The USTA league format consists of five matches - two in singles and three in doubles - for each team competition, requiring eight different players to compete on a given day.

The clinching three victories in Tucson were posted by Baltimorean Matt Lennox at No. 1 singles, the No. 1 doubles team of Baltimorean Alberto Diaz and Glenwood's David Costello, and the No. 2 doubles pair of Columbians Tom Brightfield and Brandon Haus.

Columbia's Matthew Bilger lost the No. 2 singles match in a tie-breaker after splitting the first two sets with his opponent. And Schneebaum and partner Peter Maller, from Baltimore, were swept at No. 3 doubles.

Maller, said Schneebaum, won in the semifinals, beating his opponent in the longest singles match of the finals, a contest that lasted about three hours.

The champs range in age from 26 to 49 and most played in college. There are several lawyers, a banker, several in financial businesses, one in commercial construction and four who teach tennis. Schneebaum operates a company that makes medical sensors.

Completing the team's roster are Columbia residents Howard Staley, Jon Boustany and Jason Engel, Ellicott City's Jimmy Jeffers, Towson's Brandon Oliver and Baltimore's Justin Milne.

What's next is tough for Schneebaum's team. The USTA requires championship winners to either break up or move to a higher level of competition.

"We'll probably move up," said the captain. "We don't shy away from competition. But it will be tougher."

Last year, another county team, led by Columbian Jay Katz, won the national 3.0 senior men's championship.

Split decision

A Circuit Court judge ruled this month that the county's Department of Recreation and Parks cannot be sued by a former coach in the original Howard County Trojans youth football organization.

Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. upheld County Solicitor Barbara S. Cook's argument that a civil suit filed this summer by Columbia barbershop owner Julius Warren "fails to provide any legal basis for holding the [county agency] liable. The complaint is a vague recitation of allegations that render it legally deficient."

Warren, filing in the name of a rival organization he formed, is seeking the equipment and assets of the former Trojans, who shifted their administration to rec and parks control.

Warren also named Columbia residents Ray and Harriett Page, founders of the original Trojans, in his suit, and the part relating to them remains at issue before the court. They contend that Warren has no basis for suing.

Ideas or suggestions about anything involving amateur sports in Howard County? Call the writer at 410-332-6525, or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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