An Alice In Wonderland atmosphere permeated the finals of the county tennis tournament yesterday.
They began in topsy-turvy fashion when boys singles finalist Michael Duong of Long Reach warmed up before his scheduled 9 a.m. match with Centennial's top-seeded Ryan Lissner, then forfeited in protest of what he called illegal stacking of lineups during the regular season.
At the same time, the boys doubles match to decide third place was defaulted because Oakland Mills' Brian Buckhalter and Faisal Qayumi were told Friday by the tournament director they were playing at 10:30 instead of 9, and they missed their match against Glenelg's Alex Spector and Jordan Brindza.
In the mixed doubles all-River Hill final, the odd happenings continued when unseeded Katie Sheliga and Kevin Huber defeated the top-seeded, brother-sister combo of Matt Davidson and Jackie Davidson, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, because Matt Davidson was playing against Sheliga, his girlfriend, and would not finish off his easy shots at the net against her.
And in the 2-hour, 45-minute girls doubles finals, Mount Hebron's Lauren Ramsey and Kelly McGivern, who played No. 2 doubles all season, pulled off a come-from-behind upset to defeat Glenelg's top-seeded duo of Krista Schmidt and Stephanie Garrett, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
In a bow to normalcy, top-seeded girls singles player Julia Facchina of Glenelg defeated Reservoir's Ally Spector, 6-0, 6-1. And River Hill's top-seeded boys doubles team of Scott Burtzlaff and Trevor Anderson downed Matt Keagle and Steven Hauser of Mount Hebron, 6-1, 6-2.
River Hill won the team tournament cup for the second straight season with 36 1/2 points to runner-up Glenelg's 31. Centennial and Mount Hebron each scored 25 points.
"It's not fun to play when everyone is cheating," said Duong, whose Long Reach team supported him by not participating in the opening ceremonies Wednesday. "The rules say the top two players must be No. 1 and No. 2 singles, and then the best doubles teams play in order. The vast majority of teams didn't do that. All season the No. 1 singles players I faced were weaker than the doubles players I watched play before my matches."
Duong, a junior who was 12-3, said he handed Lissner and tournament director Peter Finck letters explaining why he wasn't playing.
"Letters were written to Mr. Disney [tennis chairman Don Disney, who is also the county's coordinator of athletics] during the season but nothing was done about them," Duong said. "I got the reaction I was hoping for [from the protest] because Mr. Disney has scheduled a meeting Monday to discuss the situation."
Disney said: "This is a very serious violation of school policies. Any player who leaves the court or fails to finish a contest is guilty of misconduct. I'm suspending the student from further competition this season, and his coach [Chris Barber] will also be held accountable."
Duong said: "Achieving the desired result for next season is more important than my progression in the tournament."
Finck, directing his 20th tournament, graciously took the blame for Oakland Mills not knowing about the late schedule change.
"Ryan Lissner was playing an afternoon tournament at Maryland, so we pushed the boys matches forward to 9 a.m. to accommodate him," Finck said. "I announced the schedule change on a bullhorn Friday afternoon, but apparently Oakland Mills had already left."
The default meant that the Oakland Mills duo actually would face an easier path as fourth seed in the regional tournament against Prince George's county players, and not have to face the top-seeded River Hill duo of Burtzlaff and Anderson until the region finals. The top two finishers in regions advance to states.
"Playing against my boyfriend was the hardest match I ever played emotionally," said Sheliga, who cried after the match despite winning. "No one understands how much pressure there was. The other team should have won, but Matt didn't put away the points he should have."
Davidson said: "I didn't purposefully try to lose, but playing with my sister and against my girlfriend messed up my head. It was a lose-lose situation. My groundstrokes were bad and I foot-faulted a few times which broke our serve."
Sheliga and Huber probably wouldn't have reached the finals except for a quarterfinal upset by Matt Hoyle and Alison Bittner of Glenelg over Mount Hebron's Aaron Romano and Emily Hebeler, 6-4, 7-6. Romano and Hebeler both played No. 1 singles for the Vikings.
The girls doubles finals was by far the most emotional event of the day, however.
"I was in shock after winning the semifinals [Friday] but am hysterical to win today," said a grinning McGivern. "We expected to be out in the first round. We lost our first set today, and we came from behind in our quarterfinal match. We were underdogs the whole tourney."
McGivern and Ramsey were undefeated as No. 2 doubles players during the season.
"Kelly runs down everything, and Lauren is good at the net," said Vikings coach Jen Ramult.
The top four finishers in each event qualified for regionals.