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Howard County tennis senior spotlight

A spotlight look at the 2020 Howard County tennis graduating class.
A spotlight look at the 2020 Howard County tennis graduating class. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The announcement officially cancelling the spring sports season for Maryland public schools as a result of the coronavirus pandemic means the realization of an unfortunate reality — the high school careers for an entire senior class of athletes has come to a premature end.

In the history books, there will be no county, regional or state champions. All-County honors will not be awarded for the first time in decades.

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Still, the absence of athletic contests does not diminish the fact that the 2020 senior class of spring athletes merits recognition. With that in mind we reached out to all of the area programs to get information on their respective senior classes.

We are running the packages featuring each of the spring sports over the span of one week. Here is the release schedule:

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Thursday, May 21: Boys Lacrosse

Friday, May 22: Girls Lacrosse

Monday, May 25: Baseball

Tuesday, May 26: Softball

Wednesday, May 27: Tennis

Thursday, May 28: Track

TENNIS

Led by three seniors, the Atholton boys tennis team was coming off back-to-back 11-5 seasons as a top-half team in the county.

“Leadership by example is the best way to describe their influence,” said Atholton coach Colin MacLachlan. “Their abilities and competitive spirit will be sorely missed.”

The Raiders would have been returning their No. 1 singles player Ben Guo, who held the top spot in each of his first three seasons and was voted a co-captain this season. Ethan Nguyen utilized his athleticism as a three-year starter at No. 2 doubles and was the team’s co-captain alongside Guo.

Luke Kadingo was a four-year starter who epitomized “leaving it all on the court,” MacLachlan said.

The Raiders’ girls squad, meanwhile, was led by four seniors who got along on and off the court.

“This year’s seniors are a diverse group that have contributed many things to the team,” MacLachlan said. “The team will miss their competitiveness next year, but their display of sportsmanship and positive spirit will continue to be an inspiration.”

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Elisabeth Ake, a skilled athlete who improved her game each year, was entering her third year as a starter. Ake will be attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point this summer.

Yuna Kim, who played fourth in the county’s alternate’s tournament in her first season with Atholton, was gearing up for another year as a starter.

Ayo Ayeni joined the team as a junior but quickly developed into a contributor, while Silvia Scata, an exchange student from Italy, was a volleyball player who would have added athleticism to the tennis team.

Centennial's Olivia Tsai returns a shot while teammate, Peter Ho prepares himself at the net during a mixed doubles consolation match against Bowie during the state tennis championships played at the Wilde Lake Tennis Club in Columbia in 2018.
Centennial's Olivia Tsai returns a shot while teammate, Peter Ho prepares himself at the net during a mixed doubles consolation match against Bowie during the state tennis championships played at the Wilde Lake Tennis Club in Columbia in 2018. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The lone senior on Centennial’s boys tennis team would have been Ricky Huang, who was a singles and doubles player as well as a team captain. Huang placed second in the singles tournament in the 3A East region last year and also helped the Eagles win the 3A state title.

The Eagles’ girls team would’ve been led by four seniors — Farah Helal, Summer Shen, Olivia Tsai and Erica Zuo.

Tsai was coming off back-to-back All-County selections in her sophomore and junior seasons. She won seven medals in her three-year career and helped the Eagles win a state title last season. As a freshman and sophomore, Tsai won mixed doubles championships as well as a region title in the format in 2018.

Shen was a balanced player who placed second at counties and regionals at mixed doubles in 2018.

Helal and Zuo were both doubles players for the Eagles. Helal was a four-year doubles player, while Zuo played doubles for three seasons.

"This group of seniors are truly remarkable as athletes and as people,” said Eagles coach Erin Parisi. “Their commitment to the sport and the team is nothing short of amazing, especially in a sport that is largely considered individual. I have known all of these players since they were freshmen and have watched them grow into the players and individuals they are today. As they move on to bigger and better things, I want them to know I am so proud of them and will miss them greatly.”

The Glenelg girls tennis team was looking forward to the season with six seniors.

Co-captain Mia Stamatakis was the Gladiators’ No. 1 singles player and had a winning record last season. The team’s other captain, Hallie Koele, was a returning starter for Glenelg at No. 1 doubles. Last season, Stamatakis qualified for regionals, while Koele made the region semis at mixed doubles.

Koele’s partner at No. 1 doubles would have likely been senior Amy Brinster, who grew from a freshman alternate to a starter as a junior. Chloe Roberti and Ellie Davis were both four-year players who were gearing up for another season as No. 2 doubles players. Grace Meissner joined the team as a junior and was expected to contribute at No. 3 doubles with her aggressive net play.

“[They] will be remembered most for their drive for improvement and their enduring support of their teammates,” said Glenelg coach Jenn Shepard. “This group of seniors has done wonders to maintain a culture of positivity, helping everyone on the team reach for their performance goals.

The Hammond girls team would have sported two senior doubles players — Ramal Siddiqui and Amy Nguyen. Siddiqui was one of the team’s leaders, while Nguyen was a dedicated and hard-working player in practice. “The two girls were great leaders for the team, helping our younger players get an idea of what it’s like to play a varsity sport,” said Hammond coach Bryan Gieselman.

Howard's Morgan Cooper competes against Marriotts Ridge during the girls singles tennis match at Howard High School in Ellicott City on Monday, April 30, 2018.
Howard's Morgan Cooper competes against Marriotts Ridge during the girls singles tennis match at Howard High School in Ellicott City on Monday, April 30, 2018. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Howard boys team was coming off a 12-5 season in 2019 and would have been led by captain Blake Tammaro. As the lone senior on the squad, Tammaro was set to guide a young squad. He leaves his time at Howard fifth all time in doubles wins with 35. Last season, Tammaro partnered with Sage Fenton and finished fourth in the 4A North region doubles tournament.

“The boys team had several young players and also expected a lot of improvement from the veteran core on the team,” said Charles Boling. “With only one senior, the boys were looking to vie for the county title and improve from last season’s 12-5 record.”

The Lions’ girls squad, meanwhile, was an experienced team with five seniors. The team would’ve been led by captains Megan Clifford, Sage Fenton and Jade Sawyer.

Clifford and Fenton were both four-year starters for the Lions. Clifford ends her career second all time in program history with 41 doubles wins and sixth all time with 42 solo wins. Last season, she won the 4A North doubles tournament and reached the quarterfinals at states.

Fenton, meanwhile, finishes her career 40-22. In each of her first three seasons, Fenton placed fourth at regionals in the mixed doubles tournament.

Sawyer was a starter as a sophomore and a junior and was coming off a fourth-place finish at the 4A North region singles tournament. Morgan Cooper and Samiksha Varadarajan also cap off their careers as doubles players for the Lions.

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“The girls team was looking to improve on last year’s 11-6 record,” said Boling. “This year’s seniors will finish with an overall record of 43-10 against county opponents, including two second-place finishes in the county.”

Long Reach's Jeremy Hotchkiss hits a shot during a match against Glenelg in 2019.
Long Reach's Jeremy Hotchkiss hits a shot during a match against Glenelg in 2019. (Israel Carunungan)

The Long Reach boys team sported two seniors this year, while the Lightning girls squad had three. Sammy Hussain and Jeremy Hotchkiss were captains on the boys side. Hussain was a hard-working doubles player, while Hotchkis organized practices and was a singles player.

On the girls side, Shyla Harvin was the team’s captain and had potential as a singles player, while Jennifer Bowen was a four-year doubles player and Elizabeth Liedahl improved in her career as a singles player.

As the top program in the county, the Marriotts Ridge boys tennis team was young and only had one senior. Kenneth Abraham would have been the Mustangs’ No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles player. As a talented ball striker, Abraham lost only four matches in his career and helped lead the squad to county and state titles last season.

Marriotts Ridge's Ashna Sandoze returns the ball during the girls doubles tennis match against Howard at Howard High School in Ellicott City on Monday, April 30, 2018.
Marriotts Ridge's Ashna Sandoze returns the ball during the girls doubles tennis match against Howard at Howard High School in Ellicott City on Monday, April 30, 2018. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The girls team, meanwhile, would have been led by a four-player senior class of Sydney Bivens, Thilini Amarasinghe, Neena Sengupta and Ashna Sandoze.

Sandoze was a talented player and helped lead the Mustangs to two county titles in her career. As one of the best girls players in the county, she was set up to be Marriotts Ridge’s No. 1 singles player.

Bivens and Amarasinghe were gearing up to play No. 1 doubles this season. Bivens, a four-year player, was a competitive player for the Mustangs, while Amarasinghe was an uplifting and supportive teammate.

Sengupta, a strategically smart player, was preparing to start at No. 2 or No. 3 doubles.

“This year’s senior class includes a solid group of players that had depth and stability to create a competitive lineup against any team in the area,” said Mustangs coach Scott Dingman. “Their well-rounded talents created versatility and allowed them to play many different styles of play to suit the needs of any match."

The lone senior for the Mt. Hebron girls tennis team was four-year starter Avery Vess. She was gearing up for her second season as the Vikings’ captain and played singles, doubles and mixed doubles in her three postseasons. Coach Kevin Hendon said the team will miss Vess’ enthusiasm and commitment.

The Oakland Mills boys tennis team will graduate two seniors in Khoa Tran and Aaron Watts. Both players were key contributors in their first three seasons with the team before their senior season was canceled.

The Scorpions’ girls team was expecting to be led by seniors Danielle Ferguson, Sydney Gunther, Grace Magori and Ira Valeza.

Ferguson, Gunther and Magori were all four-year members of the squad. Valeza, also a four-year player, was the team’s captain in her junior and senior seasons.

“These seniors have worked hard to become better all-around tennis players while remaining focused in the classroom,” said Oakland Mills coach Christina Hewitt. “Many of them would stay hours after practice to improve their game and help other teammates. This same work effort has equipped them for greater achievements in their future endeavors. Their kindness and welcoming attitude made them a joy to coach.”

The River Hill boys team was gearing up for the season with seniors Julian Elguera, Kartik Gupta and Bradley Kline.

As a four-year starter, Elguera utilized his athleticism from the soccer field to contribute at doubles for the Hawks. Gupta and Kline were also doubles players. Gupta was coming off a state final appearance in mixed doubles last season, while Kline was a versatile member of the Hawks’ squad.

“The [seniors] were always looking to better themselves and rise to the competition,” said River Hill coach Kelley Pfefferkorn. “They were fierce competitors and they will be missed next year.”

On the girls side, the Hawks were coming off the county championship in 2019 and had a six-player senior class.

The six seniors — Dominique Allen, Pallavi Atluri, Tudhjot Jandu, Angela Jin, Natalie Leveque and Irene Mosyak — were all doubles players for the Hawks. Atluri was a four-year starter and one of the team’s leaders, while Jandu’s positive attitude and leadership will be missed, Pfefferkorn said. Mosyak was willing to help the team in any way, and Allen had one of the top strokes on the team. Jin was a fast-improving player, and Leveque’s love for tennis was clear when she was on the court.

“The girls team has been one of determination not at the expense of having fun on and off the court,” said Pfefferkorn. “They won the 2019 county championship, which has to be the biggest accomplishment of their tennis careers."

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