While foul weather has thrown the county tennis tournament schedule into disarray — the opening round was postponed from Tuesday until Wednesday as of press time — the regular season team races have at least been all but decided.
With a win over visiting Long Reach on May 7, the Atholton girls completed the regular season 16-1 to clinch their first county title since 2006, when Puerto Rican transfer Ydsia Quintero led the Raiders to their first county title. That year, the Atholton girls finished behind River Hill in the regular season standings, but defeated the Hawks in the county title match, which is no longer contested.
Atholton also won a county title in 1997, when the boys and girls teams competed together.
After his team defeated Long Reach on Monday afternoon, coach Michael Ashmead dodged a feeble attempt at a water cooler dousing and then rushed over to Centennial High for the county tournament seeding meeting.
At the time, he only knew that his team had clinched at least a share of the county title. But he arrived at Centennial just in time to watch Marriotts Ridge defeat the Eagles girls, 3-2, on a tiebreaker at mixed doubles (Brooks Chilcoat and Nicole Leaf).
It was Centennial's second loss of the season, knocking them out of a tie with Atholton for the county title.
"I sent out an email to the team and they must have been up all night celebrating," Ashmead said. "Today during school they were pretty much bouncing off of the walls all day."
Atholton's only loss this year was to Centennial, 3-2, on April 24. But the Raiders defeated Glenelg and River Hill twice, each time by a 3-2 score.
"We were very surprised and very excited (when we heard that Marriotts Ridge had won)," said junior Jenna Sweet. "Because the Atholton girls have never done this before."
The Raider girls finished 9-8 last year but graduated only two seniors and will only graduate one after this season.
The team has been led by undefeated freshman Victoria Kogan (No. 1 singles), Sweet (No. 2 singles), who has only lost once and the top doubles team of junior Rachel Knobel and sophomore Margaret Tatum.
River Hill boys end Howard's perfect season
In the boys team race, Howard was one win away from completing its first perfect season in school history.
Unfortunately for the Lions, River Hill stood in their way.
The Hawks won, 3-2, on Monday to force a tie for the title. River Hill still has to defeat Marriotts Ridge (8-8) in a make-up match tentatively scheduled for May 14 to make it official.
Earlier this season, on April 11, Howard had defeated River Hill, 3-2.
The swing match this time came when Jackson Feroe won 9-8 (9-7) at No. 2 singles after losing, 8-3, last time to Howard's Seth Hoesman, one of the top singles players in the county.
"He’s a better player than me," Feroe said. "He hits harder and hits more consistently than me."
At one point, Feroe fell behind 5-1 while his team trailed two points to one.
"I'm glad that I didn't know what the team score was," he said. "I just thought people were watching us because our match was the most exciting."
Using a series of slices and low shots, Feroe battled back to take a 6-5 lead and eventually won on the tiebreaker.
"It was pretty nervewracking but it felt pretty good to pull it off. It was the last regular season match and the last home match I'll ever play," he said. "We just figured we would give it our best shot ... we know we have a chance in every match."
With the match then tied at 2-2, seniors Jimmy Zhan and Oliver Zhao won, 8-5, at No. 1 doubles to end the match.
"That was really exciting and I was just so happy that the seniors played so well in their last home match on senior day," coach Jennifer Stoker said.
Howard got its wins at No. 1 singles (Andrew Pagan) and No. 2 doubles (Cameron Proctor and Kevin Lopez).