Gilman graduated two of its best squash players, Michael East (Princeton University) and Grant Lounsbury (Wesleyan University), which created a challenge for coach Boo Smith this season. He simply inserted three freshmen into the starting lineup -- Mac Await, Brad Levin and Wiatt Hinton -- and the Greyhounds kept rolling.
Smith had his doubts, though, whether they would. Rivals such as Friends School and Boys' Latin seemed to be closing the gap.
"Both teams were returning veteran squads," Smith said. "Parity is coming into the league. Any team could win."
In the end, however, it was business as usual.
Gilman won its seventh straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association squash championship with a 5-2 victory over Friends as junior Davis Owen (No. 1 in lineup), senior Henry Schmidt (No. 2), Await (No. 3), Hinton (No. 5) and senior Alex Witherspoon (No. 7) prevailed.
Smith said winning another title this year simply wasn't a given, even though the Greyounds were talented.
"This year posed many problems and was harder," Smith said. "We had a young squad. We were counting on their maturity as the season went on. Over the last two years, we graduated our strongest players. Going into the other six championships, I would say we were a strong favorite."
With most the of the lineup expected to return, the Greyhounds — who finished fourth in Division II in the U.S. Nationals — seem to be set for the 2014-2015 season.
All three of Gilman's freshmen won titles.
Until then, Smith and his team have some new accomplishments to celebrate. In addition to the team championship, Gilman won four individual titles. Hinton beat Friends' Liam Hoey in five games while both Levin, the team's No. 4 player, and Await won in three games to account for three of the titles.
Levin beat Grant Adams of Boys' Latin and Await topped Friends' Will Rogers.
Smith has been impressed with his freshmen.
"All three of them certainly have fallen in love with the game," the coach said. "All of the guys are very aggressive about their game and are taking a lot of private lessons. They all have played in national tournaments. The nice thing is they are good friends, and as a result, they end up pushing each other."
Witherspoon had to work harder to win his championship. He prevailed over Friends' Henry Askew in five games.
In the top singles championship, McDonogh's Eleonore Evans beat Owen, who had missed six weeks of the season because of a knee injury, in five games. Connor Ward of Boys' Latin topped Gilman's Henry in three games.
Smith sounded pleased with the play of his top two singles players, considering whom they were replacing.
"They both felt it (pressure)," Smith said. "Davis was stepping into the number one position, which is very demanding. He was going to play the best players in the area. Henry was jumping up from number four to number two. That was a big jump. He did quite well."
Friends coach Lucky Odeh said the dedication of Gilman's year-round players has factored into their success in the individual and team championships.
"Most kids at other schools play other sports," Odeh said. "These kids don't do anything else. It gives them an advantage."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun