Rena Shi

Rena Shi, 17, poses for an athlete of the year photo at River Hill High School in Clarksville. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing / June 12, 2011)

Somehow the term quiet just doesn't seem appropriate when describing a career which included two individual county championships, four regular season and Howard County Cup team titles and a trip to the state championship match this year in girls doubles.

But when interacting with River Hill's Rena Shi, the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times girls tennis Player of the Year, the word quiet seems just right.

Ever since her freshman year, when she ascended to the No. 1 singles spot to lead her team to a 3-2 win over Marriotts Ridge to win the regular season county title match, Shi has paced the Hawks down a road of brilliant success.

Over the past four years, a span in which the Hawks have had four different coaches, the River Hill girls tennis team has won 60 of 68 matches. Each year they have won the regular season girls team title and the Howard County Cup, the trophy that goes to the school that accumulates the most points between its boys and girls teams at the county tournament.

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And all the while, Shi has been the team's constant leader.

"She's so cool on the court, she handles herself so well," coach Jennifer Stoker said. "Everyone respects her."

While the coaches came and went, Shi returned each year and took on more of a leadership role as a result.

"I like giving people advice here and there," Shi said.

Stoker, who was an accomplished player at Centennial High and Brigham Young University, was more than happy to let Shi chime in with strategic advice.

"Rena's very quiet, but she knows what she's talking about, so when she does talk, it's worth listening to," Stoker said.

After playing mixed doubles during the postseason of her freshman year, Shi won county and regional titles and was named Player of the Year as a sophomore.

"Her strength is that she can hit the heck out of the ball. She hits very solid and very flat, and it's almost always a winner," Stoker said.

But then last year, Glenelg's Jordan Maisel — who returned to Australia before this season — took the county by storm. While Shi was very good, Maisel was simply better. But instead of acting frustrated, Shi took the demotion to second best player in the county with great grace and dignity.

"I kind of wish (Maisel) had stayed," Shi said. "I respected her as an opponent and it was fun to be challenged."

This year, Shi returned to her role as the county's undisputed champion and won every singles match she played with relative ease. By the end of the season, Shi and fellow senior Audrey Cheng decided to play girls doubles together. Cheng has been widely regarded as one of the top singles players in the county the past several seasons, even though she played No. 2 singles behind Shi.

Shi and Cheng were an unstoppable force through the county and regional tournaments and dropped a total of only three games en route to the state championship match. There, they finally met their match, losing to Bethesda-Chevy Chase's Anna Rozenberg and Emma Baker.

"It was fun even though it didn't work out as well as we had hoped," Shi said. "We had the potential to win, but it was a fair game. They were a good team."

Shi is attending the University of Maryland next year on a music scholarship — she is a talented violinist and even gives lessons — and is planning to pursue a double major in music and business.

While she has no aspirations to continue playing tennis competitively, Shi will always have fond memories of her time as a Hawk.

"It was an honor to play on the team and be one of the top players. It's been really fun bonding with my teammates and I've really enjoyed meeting different players from all around the county," Shi said. "It's been kind of quick. Each year, the season seemed to go by so fast."