In the world of sports, visualization is a powerful tool.
When it comes to hitting a game-winning shot or capturing a championship, picturing a goal is often the first step toward achieving it.
In the case of Trinetra Vijayakumar, the moment she had been playing out in her head and working toward these last few years wasn’t all that grandiose. After growing up practicing on the tennis courts outside Mt. Hebron High School, Vijayakumar simply couldn’t wait for her chance to finally put on a Vikings’ uniform.
“I know it sounds silly, but the Mt. Hebron courts have always been a second home to me,” she said. “My house is so close that, growing up, I spent basically all my time there. In the back of my head, I was basically just counting down the time until I got my chance to finally be on the team. I wasn’t thinking about winning or anything … it was just I can’t wait to play for Mt. Hebron and represent the school as best I can.”
This spring, as a freshman, Vijayakumar got her long-awaited opportunity and made the most of it.
Playing out of the No. 1 singles spot from Day One, she went a perfect 14-0 overall on the way to capturing region and state championships. Not only did she not lose a match, she lost only three games all season — including only one in the postseason.
For her dominance, she has been named the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier Girls Tennis Player of the Year. It’s the first time a girls player from Mt. Hebron has earned the distinction since Katie Long in 2000.
“Even being just 14 years old, her maturity and presence on the court this season was far and above anybody I have ever seen at this level,” coach Kevin Hendon said. “She was so focused and well-balanced as a player and had skills on the court that were so advanced that she really was in a league of her own.”
The tennis journey for Vijayakumar, who is currently ranked just outside the top 50 nationally in the Junior Tennis Rankings among rising sophomores, started when she was 3 years old. Her dad, Vijay, introduced her to the sport, and before long she began working with coach Bill Noel.
When she started playing tournaments at the age of 10, she also transitioned to working with her current coach Vadim Fishkin — someone she sees as many as five times a week.
Her growth as a player the last few years has been as much about mastering the technical aspects of the game as it has been about improving mentally.
“The biggest thing right now for me is having a good mindset,” Vijayakumar said. “I’m now starting to enjoy myself on the court more and also trying my best to play more aggressive tennis. I aim for a big first serve and then focus on stepping in for the next shot.”
As dominant as this first season at Mt. Hebron was, it nearly never happened. Vijayakumar was delayed in getting her paperwork in and therefore didn’t officially join the team until right before the team’s first match.
In fact, Hendon hadn’t actually even seen Vijayakumar play until she stepped onto the court against Marriotts Ridge’s Anna Ottman on May 11 and earned an 8-1 victory.
“I had information coming from the kids, many of whom had seen her play, so even though I didn’t know much about her I kind of bent over backwards to make sure we had a spot for her,” Hendon said. “Once she finally joined us and played in that first match, it was eye opening.”
Vijayakumar never slowed down, often making things look easy with her consistency and all-around game.
But for as much individual success as she had, Vijayakumar seemed to enjoy being part of a team as much as anything else. She always hung around after winning her match to cheer on her teammates, making friends with the team’s alternates and relishing in the camaraderie.
Even after a dominating effort in the 3A state championship match — winning 6-1, 6-0 over C. Milton Wright’s Frances Ceballos — she was quick to point out that what meant the most to her was doing her part to put Mt. Hebron tennis back on the map.
“My focus all year was to just do it for the school,” she said. “Everyone was so great to me on and off the court and they were so encouraging. I felt like I had a great bond with the whole team and being able to win for Mt. Hebron meant so much to me.”
Also named to the All-County team:
Corinne Chau, Howard sophomore. Chau went undefeated during the regular season, compiling an 11-0 record while playing at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. When playing girls doubles, she regularly teamed up with Viola Yu and the duo picked up big wins over River Hill and the eventual state-championship duo from Centennial. In the postseason, she teamed up with Alex Brousseau to win four matches and a 4A East Region championship at mixed doubles before losing to the eventual state champions from Churchill in the state semis.
Michelle Fradlin, Centennial freshman. Playing primarily out of the No. 2 singles spot for the Eagles, Fradlin had a dominant regular season. She won nine straight matches until losing the regular-season finale against Howard while playing at No. 1 doubles, her first pairing with Rose Huang. Once the postseason began, however, Fradlin and Huang hit their stride. The duo won five straight matches on the way to securing the 3A state girls doubles championship and never lost more than four games in any of those matchups.
Adelaide Houston, River Hill freshman. After a slow start to the season that included two early losses, Houston rebounded to not lose again until the regional finals against eventual state-champion Trinetra Vijayakumar. Playing at No. 1 singles, Houston finished the regular season 7-2 and then won two matches in the region tournament.
Rose Huang, Centennial junior. There were a couple setbacks for Huang during the regular season while playing at No. 1 singles for the Eagles and then, in her first pairing with Michelle Fradlin at doubles, she lost a tight match against Howard in the last county match. But once the postseason began, Huang and Fradlin hit their stride. The duo won five straight matches on the way to securing the 3A state girls doubles championship and never lost more than four games in any of those matchups.
Audrey Oaksmith, Centennial senior. After playing to a .500 record during the regular season while playing primarily at No. 1 doubles — adding a singles victory against Howard — Oaksmith had a memorable postseason. She joined Keshav Ganapathy to play mixed doubles and the duo won four straight matches to win the 3A East Region championship. The run ended in the state semifinals against the eventual state champions from Urbana.
Niki Patel, Atholton senior. Patel finished the regular season 6-3 while splitting time between No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles. Then, in the 3A East Region tournament, she paired with teammate Alex Nguyen to win two matches in mixed doubles before losing in the region final.
Priyanka Ramulu, River Hill sophomore. For the county-champion Hawks, Ramulu went 6-2 while splitting time between No. 1 doubles and No. 2 singles. She then paired with teammate Siri Jale to make the 3A East Region finals in girls doubles, losing to eventual state champions Rose Huang and Michelle Fradlin.
Shivaani Selvan, Hammond freshman. The Golden Bears’ first-year star at No. 1 singles played in only a handful of matches during the regular season but won all of them. Her biggest victory came against Centennial’s Rose Huang by a score of 8-3. Selvan opted not to compete in the region tournament.
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Gabby Tseytlin, Marriotts Ridge senior. It was an undefeated regular season for Tseytlin, who played mostly out of the No. 2 singles position but also teamed up with Anna Ottman to win a couple doubles matches. During regionals, she paired with Ethan Bernstein to make the 3A East mixed doubles region semifinals before losing in a tiebreak.