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Howard County Sports

River Hill’s Adele Lair excels in first varsity season earning Howard County Times 2022 Girls Tennis Player of the Year

Adele Lair was the United States Tennis Association’s third-ranked player in the Mid-Atlantic region and top-ranked in Maryland for her age group as a seventh grader.

However, Lair stopped playing when the coronavirus pandemic emerged in order to minimize the health risks for her and her family.

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Lair played before her freshman high school season at River Hill, but acclimating to tennis in a new atmosphere wasn’t easy. Early on, she was stressed and struggling with her groundstrokes.

Unlike in her previous tournament experience where everything was individualized, Lair could turn to teammates like juniors Priyanka Ramulu and Alex Artazov, as well as her older brother, Sebastien, a senior.

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“Having Sebastien on the team was honestly so helpful for me because before each match we’d run out to the courts and warm up before we get on the bus or before our home matches,” Adele said. “He was just always there for me. When I was struggling in the beginning of the season from stress and I was struggling with my groundstrokes he was helping get through that, too, by hitting with me.”

The more matches she played, the more that stress and mental block faded. Lair finished the regular season 11-0 at No. 1 singles. She continued that success in the postseason, winning both the Howard County Cup and Class 3A East Region II titles. For her success, Lair is the 2022 Howard County Times/Columbia Flier girls tennis Player of the Year.

Lair faced a familiar foe in Centennial senior Rose Huang during the county cup final. A tightly contested match throughout with stoppages due to rain and injury, Lair earned a hard-fought 8-6 victory to capture the title.

“When I found out I had to play Rose, I was really stressed,” Lair said. “I had played her when I was 9 and she was 12. It was one of my first 12-and-under tournaments. She was a lot bigger than me and older than me, so I ended up losing pretty badly. Having to play her five years later, it was definitely a little bit scary.”

The match went back and forth. Lair was down a game, then rallied. Up 7-6 she needed a medical timeout for leg cramps. But she powered through and finished off the win.

Lair gained confidence from the match and grew stronger in the regional tournament. The top overall seed, Lair dominated the competition defeating Wilde Lake’s Johanna Shin, 6-1, 6-0, in the semifinals. She took down Atholton’s Talia Brown, 6-0, 6-0, in the final, helping guide the Hawks to the regional title.

“I think her past experience in different levels of competition is really helpful,” River Hill coach Kelley Pfefferkorn said. “She’s a super consistent player and I think that’s where her opponents fall against her. I think that consistency is super important because that’s what breaks your opponent.”

Lair finished third at the 3A state tournament. She lost to Huang in the semifinals but still played a key role in the Hawks capturing the first state team title in program history. Despite falling short, Lair gained valuable postseason experience, exposed to new players and competition she hadn’t previously seen before. Lair also formed strong relationships with teammates off of the court, vastly different from her experience competing in USTA tournaments.

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“It takes time to get to know your players and I’m so excited to get to know Adele’s game a little bit better,” Pfefferkorn said of what excites her most moving forward. “As new players join other teams and she gets to see different levels of play, I think that’s going to be really important and really neat for her.”

All-County first team

Julia Cabacar, River Hill, freshman

Cabacar played both singles and mixed doubles. She finished the regular season 7-1 at No. 2 singles and was 3A regional mixed doubles champion and second at states with Vraj Patel.

Corinne Chau, Howard, junior

Chau won both the 3A mixed doubles state and East Region I titles with Alex Brousseau. She also played No. 1 singles and doubles for the Lions finishing 10-1 in singles and 8-3 in doubles. At the Howard County Cup, she finished second in the No. 1 doubles flight alongside Viola Yu.

Nithya Chilukuri, Mt. Hebron, sophomore

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Chilukuri finished the regular season undefeated (10-0). She also reached the 3A East Region I mixed doubles championship match with Guy Scafidi.

Rose Huang, Centennial, senior

Huang was a No. 1 singles finalist in the Howard County Cup. She also won the 3A East Region I singles title with a 6-0, 6-0 win in the final and finished as state runner-up.

Presley Caroland and Viola Yu, Howard, seniors

Caroland and Yu won the 3A East Region I doubles title, 7-5, 6-2, and finished second in the 3A state doubles tournament. Caroland played primarily doubles throughout the season, finishing 15-1 and winning the No. 2 doubles tournament at the Howard County cup alongside Marina Kim. Yu had a 15-3 record through the regular season.

Adelaide Houston, River Hill, sophomore and Priyanka Ramulu, River Hill, junior

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Houston and Ramulu swept the No. 1 doubles championship at counties, regionals and states. They defeated Reservoir’s Gia Santos and Karen Yhim, 6-0, 6-1 in the regional final, also never lost more than two games in a set at the state tournament.

All-County second team

Sarah Blackman, Centennial, senior

Joanna Blackman, Centennial, sophomore

Michelle Fradlin, Centennial, sophomore

Marina Kim, Howard, senior

Riya Rai, Mt. Hebron, freshman


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