Aces high for Western tennis

Despite no home court, Doves go unbeaten in regular season and finish second in Baltimore City championship tournament



The odds were stacked against Western's tennis team from the start of the season. Not only were the Doves' home courts in such disrepair they were unplayable, but the all-girls team plays in the city's co-ed league.

Still the Doves finished 11-0 in the regular season and second to Poly in the Baltimore City championship tournament.

"We had quite a few seniors," coach Shirley Williams said. "That helped with experience, because most of them don't play tennis as their first sport. What hurt us the most was not having a court to play on, but this group could not have been better."

No. 1 singles player Shatera Kimbrough, No. 2 Jasmine Jeffreys and the doubles team of Ivy Perez and Kendra Huggins often played against boys during the regular season. They won almost every match.

Kimbrough's only two losses were to Poly's Blair Fleet, once during the regular season and 7-5, 6-3 in the city final.

The competition against the guys went smoothly, although some of their opponents were a bit tentative at first, Jeffreys said.

"Some of them felt insulted before the match and then when we beat them, they had respect for us. It was all good."

Williams complimented the boys for their good sportsmanship.

For Kimbrough and Jeffreys, the opportunity to play against the boys was a positive experience.

"I think playing against them made us stronger players and helped our mental toughness also," Jeffreys said. "You've got to change your thought process when you play guys. You think he might be 10 times stronger than I am, but then he might not, so you've got to go ahead and play the game the way you know how."

Despite the lack of a home court, Kimbrough said traveling around to practice at Druid Hill, Clifton Park or sometimes to one of Poly's courts helped the team bond.

"It was a lot of waiting mostly," Kimbrough said of the trips by van that often transported half the team at a time. "Not everyone would always be there at the same time, so the old people had to help the new people. I think that brought us closer together."

The Doves finished second in the city tournament even though they played in only three of five events - girls singles, girls doubles and mixed doubles.

In the past, they had been limited to girls singles and girls doubles, but now that the city championship is no longer the district qualifier for the state tournament, Williams said, her team can compete in all events, including boys singles and boys doubles.

Williams said she didn't have enough girls to go around this season, although she also got fine efforts from Ebony Beverly and Sydnee Logan in singles play. Next year, the Doves hope to enter all events.

Gaels signings

Senior guards Kevin Swecker and Dejuan Goodwin of Mount St. Joseph have signed with Longwood University in Farmville, Va., and Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., respectively, the school's athletic department announced last week.

The duo brings to five the number of college-bound players from last season's record-setting, top-ranked Gaels who will take their games to the Division I college courts. Two-time All-Metro forward Louis Birdsong is headed for George Mason, guard Chase Adams is going to Centenary College, and junior Dino Gregory already has committed to the University of Maryland.

Birdsong, 6 feet 2 and 240 pounds, was named All-Metro Player of The Year, Goodwin was a first-team All-Metro selection, and their coach, Pat Clatchey, was All-Metro Coach of The Year for leading the Gaels to a state record for wins in a season at 38-1.

In other news, Gaels' alum Brian Johnson, a 2005 graduate, has committed to play basketball for the University of Delaware, meaning he could face former teammate and current George Mason player Will Thomas, The Sun's 2004 All-Metro Player of The Year, and Birdsong since both teams compete in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Mervo tribute

Moments after Mervo captured the Class 3A boys state crown in the 3,200-meter relay, junior Leon Williams Jr., who ran the anchor leg, was asked what drove him to outlast Westlake's Sean Guy in the final 400 meters.

Before Williams could answer, senior Bryant Brown replied, "We did this for Coach Neal."

Ronald Neal, the longtime cross country and track and field mentor at Mervo, died on March 1 due to complications from a brain aneurysm.

The Mustangs have used his memory as motivation.

Nowhere was that more apparent than on Friday, when Mervo and Westlake went head-to-head in the final lap. With about 300 meters left, Williams said he decided to initiate his kick and see if Guy could keep up.

"I could hear him," Williams said. "I felt him on me, so I just pushed it."

Williams, Brown, senior Don Womack Jr. and sophomore Issac Richardson crossed the finish line in 8 minutes, 4.03 seconds. Westlake was second in 8:07.58, but Williams said he was unconcerned.

"I knew I had him," Williams said. "Too much pride to give up."

Gilman's role reversal

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.