River Hill tennis coach Kelley Pfefferkorn entered Saturday’s state championships keenly aware that the Hawks could achieve something which had never been done in program history.
The Hawks entered states with participants in all five divisions after crowning five Class 3A East Region II champions. At the conclusion of Saturday’s matches, River Hill earned the 3A team title for the first time in program history, finishing with 63 points, the highest total across all four classes. The title was extra special for Pfefferkorn, an alum of the program.
“I’m so happy for them,” Pfefferkorn said. “They work so hard, I can’t take any of the credit at all. I stand nervous on the sideline, trying to stay optimistic and cheer them on. Overall, I think it’s a huge feather in all of their caps and I’m just really excited for them.”
The Hawks crowned two individual state champions. Alex Artazov brought home a boys singles state title. The junior faced a familiar opponent in Marriotts Ridge’s Mukundh Boopathi, who won two previous meetings, 8-6. The second win came in the singles championship of the Howard County cup.
However, Artazov defeated Boopathi in a third-set tiebreaker, 6-1, 2-6, 1-0 (7). It also helped avenge Artazov’s loss in the state finals last season. The championship match was the third of the day for both players as the 3A and 4A state quarterfinals and semifinals were all consolidated to Saturday due to weather.
“At 4-1 in the first set, I know we were both very tired,” Artazov said. “My body was not feeling well. I just went all out in the tiebreak. I wanted to get an early lead. I just stayed confident the whole time throughout the tiebreak. I had my team there this time throughout the match. Last year I had my coach there but I didn’t have my team. At the end, everyone was watching and it was just a better atmosphere. I feel like that helped me a lot.”
Adelaide Houston and Priyanka Ramulu built on his success in girls doubles, winning the state title by defeating Presley Caroland and Viola Yu of Howard, 6-2, 6-0. That capped off a dominant state tournament where Houston and Ramulu didn’t surrender more than two games in any set, despite only having a 30-minute break between the quarterfinal and semifinal match.
“We were definitely really tired by the end because we don’t usually play three matches in a day and especially two sets to six,” Houston said. “We just stayed focused the entire time. We cheered on our teammates and cheering others on watching them play helped us get in the mindset of what we needed to do and the shots we needed to make. We moved around a lot. We went to Starbucks and we were just talking about all the techniques we need to do, staying aggressive at the net.”
Being good friends off the court translated to success on it with effective communication throughout their matches.
“It’s really helpful as it’s really easy to play with someone you’re comfortable with,” Ramulu said. “You’re comfortable to play your game and it’s so easy to communicate because we know each other pretty well. We’ve known each other for the past two years. So, playing together is seamless and it’s also fun. I think that’s the biggest thing for us.”
Adele Lair reached the girls singles semifinals for the Hawks, while Sebastien Lair and Ansh Sawhney were finalists in boys doubles, losing the final match to Marriotts Ridge’s Pedro Arantes Gabriel and Shreyas Rath. Julia Cabacar and Vraj Patel reached the mixed doubles finals, rounding out a landmark accomplishment for the Hawks’ program.
“I think that they just showed and were eager to win and play,” Pfefferkorn said. “I think my girls are always super consistent and the boys were ready to win. They showed up and they wanted to continue on. I think that was really important. They wanted to be at states, they wanted to play.”
Marriotts Ridge, Howard also crown state champions
Howard and Marriotts Ridge finished second and third in the team titles with 29 and 28 points, respectively.
For Marriotts Ridge, alongside Boopathi, Arantes Gabriel and Rath excelled. The doubles pairing extended their success from the Howard County cup, winning the state doubles title 7-6 (5), 6-3. They cruised in both the semis and quarters, not dropping more than two games.
For Howard, the mixed doubles pairing of Corinne Chau and Alex Brosseau won handily in the championship, 6-1, 6-0 victory. Their toughest match of the tournament came in the semifinals with a 7-5, 3-6, 1-0 (5) victory over Priyanka Gupta and Ben Anspach of Tuscarora.
In girls singles, Centennial’s Rose Huang, the Eagles’ lone state finalist, lost to Madison Warren of Thomas Johnson, 6-2, 6-4.