Howard County tennis reporter Andrew Conrad gives a recap of the spring 2015 season, which included several appearances at the state tournament. (Jon Sham/Baltimore Sun Media Group video)
After losing in the state finals of her sophomore year, Atholton's Victoria Kogan had to make a very important decision that would potentially impact her college tennis career. As a junior, she could either play tennis again for the Raiders and pursue the state title that eluded her, or she could choose to focus all of her energy on high-level USTA competition.
It wasn't an easy decision, but Kogan ultimately chose the path that was best for her in the long run, even though it meant less gratification in the short term.
"With the USTA there's less fun involved, but it definitely works on your game — your mental game, your physical game, fitness — and that's a huge part," said Kogan, who was a county champion as a freshman. "It might not be the fun part, but it's definitely what you need to get to work and put in the hours at the court and the gym."
All those hours of hard work paid off with a spot on the tennis team at George Washington University, where Kogan plans to major in biomedical engineering next fall.
And with her college choice out of the way, Kogan was eager to get back to the fun of high school tennis.
"I love representing Atholton as a school. I will never forget playing tennis for the school, being with my teammates, whether I was supporting them and cheering them on or they were cheering me on during a tough match," said Kogan, who won her third regional title and advanced to the state finals for the second time to earn Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Player of the Year honors. "We all had tough matches and we pulled each other through."
This season was a great bookend for Kogan's career, after she was also named Player of the Year as a freshman, when she won her only county championship.
"I'm definitely proud of my accomplishments and what I've achieved through my high school career," she said. "From freshman year, being knocked out early at states and then making it to the finals and competing well, I'm proud of the way I finished my high school career here."
There were several setbacks this spring. In the county championship finals, the same day as her Senior Prom, Kogan was upset by Marriotts Ridge sophomore Abby Thornton in straight sets, giving Thornton — the 2014 Player of the Year — her second straight county championship. Kogan's loss also cost Atholton its fourth consecutive County Cup trophy.
"I was definitely a little disappointed that we couldn't pull through ... We still came close and we still competed well, and I hope that Atholton can come out on top next year," said Kogan, who led the Raiders to regular season girls titles and County Cup trophies as a freshman and sophomore. "I tried not to look at it negatively, I wanted to put it in the past. I know that Abby is a tough opponent ... She played well and I wish I had played better, but it just wasn't my day."
But rather than letting that loss derail her season, Kogan came back even more focused and driven in the regional tournament. There, her commanding 6-3, 6-1 victory over Thornton led the Raiders to the regional team title by a wide margin. The momentum from that victory carried Kogan all the way through to the state finals.
"When the regionals started, that was true Victoria," Atholton coach Michael Ashmead said. "It was a great end to the season."
Even though Kogan lost in the state championship to Wootton sophomore Miranda Deng, the defending state champion, it was hard for her to look at her return to the high school courts as anything but a success.
"Seeing all of the familiar faces from previous years, whether they were from (Howard) or different counties, playing against my friend in the finals ... even when we finished it wasn't bitter. We just hugged each other and we both knew that it was a good match," Kogan said. "It was a good end to my senior year."
Now, as Kogan prepares for college tennis, she might have some sage advice for a former Atholton teammate. Irene Lu, the player who defeated Kogan in the 2013 state championship, hasn't worn an Atholton uniform since that state title run, instead focusing on USTA competition, but has considered returning to the Raiders for one last run as a senior.
"I would tell her to do it," Kogan said. "It's so much fun just being with the team all the time: the bus rides, the matches, everything that you experience through it. And it's your senior year, your last chance to end the year in a fun way and hopefully compete well in the end, too."
Also named to the all-county girls tennis team:
Alyssa Boryachinsky, Howard. One of several impressive underclassmen this spring, Boryachinsky helped lead the Lions to 10 regular season victories in her rookie campaign, then placed fourth at the county and regional tournaments.
Lexi Hackerman, Centennial. Teamed up with Gaby Schito to advance to the county and regional finals, earning a second-straight trip to the state tournament. She also helped the Eagles girls place second in the county standings with 15 wins, and claim their first County Cup trophy in 10 years.
Erica Lee, Atholton. Alongside teammate Elizabeth Sangvic, Lee — a returning doubles county champion — placed third at both the county and regional tournaments. The senior leader also helped the Raider girls win 11 regular season matches.
Serene Mathew, Mt. Hebron. After winning regional titles as a sophomore and junior, Mathew had a breakout season as a senior, teaming up with Tess Weber to win her first county doubles title. She followed that up with her third regional championship, then finished strong by placing third at the state tournament, advancing to the second day for the first time. The team leader also helped the Viking girls win 15 matches.
Snigdha Puram, Long Reach. Puram, the girls rookie of the year, had one of the most impressive seasons by a Lightning player in many years, placing third with strong wins in the county and regional tournaments, and helping Long Reach win four matches.
Alana Ravasio, Marriotts Ridge. One of the top No. 2 singles players in the area, Ravasio closed out a strong career with the Mustangs, leading the girls to a 16-1 record and the regular season county title. Ravasio, a four-time all-county selection, led the Mustang girls to 57 victories over the past four seasons.
Elizabeth Sangvic, Atholton. The junior stepped up to join veteran teammate Erica Lee for a postseason run that culminated in third place finishes at the county and regional tournaments.
Gaby Schito, Centennial. A first time all-county selection, Schito joined forces with Lexi Hackerman to guide the Eagles to 15 regular season wins and their first County Cup in 10 years. As a doubles team, Schito and Hackerman advanced to the county and regional finals and qualified for the state tournament.
Abby Thornton, Marriotts Ridge. After a breakout freshman campaign which included county and regional championships and a fourth place finish at the state tournament, Thornton came back strong in 2015. She upset Kogan for her second straight county title before falling in a regional finals rematch and losing to the eventual state champion in the state quarterfinals. Along the way, Thornton led the Mustang girls to a 16-1 record and the regular season title.
Jazmin Walle, Centennial. Walle did not experience a sophomore slump after advancing to the county and regional finals as a freshman. This spring she teamed up with Andrew Tsai to win county and regional titles at mixed doubles, then finished strong with a third place finish at the state tournament. She was also integral to Centennial's first County Cup in a decade.
Tess Weber, Mt. Hebron. A sophomore, Weber stepped into the girls doubles spot vacated by 2014 graduate Kiran Pant, and won county and regional championships alongside Serene Mathew. Weber also helped the Vikings win 15 matches and placed third with Mathew at the state tournament.