At the beginning of any new sports season, the goal is simple: to improve on last year's results. But for Howard County tennis as a whole, improving on the accomplishments of last spring may be a ludicrously high standard to strive for.
Last year, Howard County crowned two state singles champions — Reservoir senior Biyik Akinshemoyin and Atholton freshman Irene Lu — for the first time in history.
It was also the first time that two players from the same team competed against each other for a state title: Lu defeated sophomore teammate Victoria Kogan for the state championship.
Unfortunately for Howard County public school teams, none of those players will be back.
Akinshemoyin is now playing for UMBC, while Lu and Kogan have stepped away from high school tennis.
So while there are not any defending champions this year, the county tournament could be very exciting.
"This year's favorite as county champion should be Cade (Buch) from Marriotts Ridge, but Atholton and River Hill should have some solid players to challenge him," Howard coach Chip Boling said. "The girls county singles title (is) wide open."
Look for Wilde Lake senior Melissa Barrall, River Hill senior Caitlin Stewart-Moore to compete for the county's top spot, although Marriotts Ridge freshman Abby Thornton is a tournament seasoned player who could take the state by storm the way Lu did last year. River Hill freshman Prateek Swamykumar could challenge Buch for the boys title.
While last year was a year for singles players to shine, this spring might be Howard County's chance to show its power in doubles play: Mt. Hebron's Kiran Pant and Serene Mathew (girls doubles), Atholton's George Mao and Matt Sklar (boys doubles) and Howard's Emma Hoesman and Max Balter (mixed doubles) all have the experience to go deep at the state tournament in late May.
At Wilde Lake, veteran coach Ron Shelton has stepped down after 18 seasons, but he will be replaced by another veteran coach, Ross Hannon, who has coached just about every sport during his time in Howard County.
A look at each Howard County tennis team as we head into the season.
Coach: Michael Ashmead, fourth season
Boys 2013 record: 11-6; Girls 2013 record: 17-0 (county champion). County Cup champion.
Boys singles: Sophomore Matt Sklar and senior George Mao
Girls singles: Elizabeth Sangvic and Erin Nguyen
Boys doubles: Mark Mao and Collin McEwen
Girls doubles: Senior Margaret Tatum and Erica Lee
Coach: Erin Fisher, second season
Boys: 13-3; Girls: 12-4
Boys singles: Junior Anant Mishra and sophomore Andrew Tsai
Girls singles: Freshman Jazmin Walle, sophomore Sara Ho, junior Lexi Hackerman
Boys doubles: Seniors Farhan Bader and Andrew Kendrick
Girls doubles: Senior Ally Schito and junior Gaby Schito
Coach: Christine Gaylor, 15th season
Boys: 9-8; Girls: 7-10
Boys singles: Senior Louis Colangelo and freshman Reece Maiden
Girls singles: Senior Lindsey Mazer and junior Madeline Judd
Boys doubles: Seniors Mitchel Furst and Jack Hayden
Girls doubles: Seniors Clara Wang and Diana Budman; sophomore Sophia Gambino; freshmen Emma Sedlack and Emma Buch
Coach: Omri Kagan, third season
Boys: 3-14; Girls: 4-13
Boys singles: Sophomore Jonathan Gorel and senior Uk Zathang
Girls singles: Seniors Katie Cheuvront and Dayesha Sims
Boys doubles: Seniors Matt Neuman and Chris Rose
Girls doubles: Senior Sherri Green and freshman Taelor Brown
Coach: Chip Boling, seventh season
Boys: 13-4; Girls: 6-11
Boys singles: Seniors Max Balter and Kevin Lopez
Girls singles: Senior Emma Hoesman and junior Natalie Kisak
Boys doubles: Seniors Tommy Jarosz and Jake Frank
Girls doubles: Senior Amber Blackmon; sophomores Kristine Knudson and Natalie White
Coach: Bill Flick, ninth season
Boys: 7-9; Girls: 3-13
Boys singles: Junior Ben Eapen
Boys doubles: Seniors Erick Medina and John Shin; juniors Amrtansh Rastogi and Pa Lung
Girls doubles: Seniors Kate Harkleroad, Melody Tsao and Kara Jordan; junior Amy Huh
Coach: Scott Dingman, ninth season
Boys: 13-4; Girls: 12-5
Boys singles: Sophomore Cade Buch and Daniel Lee
Girls singles: Freshman Abby Thornton and junior Alana Ravasio
Boys doubles: Seniors Ben Klawson and Jack Weymer; junior Connor Bivens and Christian Tringali
Girls doubles: Anna Kuligowski and Mifra Baqai
Coach: Lisa Vitali, ninth season
Boys: 9-8; Girls: 12-5
Boys singles: Senior Collin Chase and sophomore Rohil Bahri
Girls singles: Junior Stephanie Carroll
Boys doubles: Juniors Corey Wiggs and Anoosh Reddy
Girls doubles: Senior Kiran Pant and junior Serene Mathew
Coach: Victoria Knuckles, seventh season
Boys: 1-15; Girls: 0-16
Boys singles: Seniors Jackson Bailey and Kieran Buss
Girls singles: Senior Marjorie Buss and junior Lauren Olson
Boys doubles: Seniors Shawn Roberts and Louie Chaverini
Girls doubles: Senior Debora Frimpong and Sydney Watson
Coach: Karen Wolfe, sixth season
Boys: 2-14; Girls: 4-12
Boys singles: Sophomore Pavan Vemulakonda, Chris Yeh and Richard Do
Girls singles: Senior Gabi Dubovoy and sophomores Amanda Farmer and Madhu Vemulakonda
Boys doubles: Seniors Danny Vazquez and Jon Bui
Girls doubles: Sophomores Kayla Krammes and Giovanna Guarnieri
Coach: Jennifer Stoker, fourth season
Boys: 17-0 (county champion); Girls: 14-3
Boys singles: Freshman Prateek Swamykumar and senior Waldo Vazquez
Girls singles: Seniors Caitlin Stewart-Moore; sophomore Amrita Kaur; freshman Snigda Palli
Boys doubles: Senior Sashant Palli and junior Nick Zhu
Girls doubles: Seniors Neha Wadhavkar and Chelsea English
Mixed doubles: Senior Byron Hung and junior Rita Hung
Coach: Ross Hannon, first season
Boys: 2-15; Girls: 9-8
Boys singles: Eric Weber and Yan Wang
Girls singles: Senior Melissa Barrall and Julia Duvall
Boys doubles: Marcelo Ramirez and Austin Kim
Girls doubles: Senior Candice Ho and Novella Ogunshina
Coach: Dennis Cochran, 12th season
Boys: 9-2, MIAA B Conference finalist
Boys singles: Junior Ryan Lundergan, Chris Jacobs and Skye Basir
Boys doubles: Destan Scott and Cooper Taylor