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Familiar faces headline county tennis tournament

Familiar faces headline county tennis tournament
The Howard County tennis tournament finals are set for May 12. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Howard County tennis championships began on Tuesday, and with the finals scheduled for Saturday, May 12, there are a number of familiar faces expected to compete for titles.

Centennial senior Ram Kotnana (boys singles) is the only player who has returned to defend the same championship he won last spring, but all of the No. 1 seeds in the other four events were in the finals in separate events a year ago.

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Headlining girls singles is Marriotts Ridge junior Veronica Cuellar, who last season was the Howard County Times girls tennis Co-Player of the Year after winning the girls doubles state championship alongside Abby Thornton.

Cuellar went undefeated in the regular season competing in singles and doubles and also led the Mustangs girls to an undefeated regular season and their fifth straight county title. She is the top seed, while Long Reach's Snigdha Puram, a county finalist in girls singles last season, is the No. 2 seed. Marriotts Ridge sophomore Ashna Sandoze, who also went undefeated during the regular season, is the No. 3 seed, and Glenelg's Mia Stamatakis is the fourth seed.

The Marriotts Ridge girls tennis team poses for a photo after winning its fifth straight county title in early May.
The Marriotts Ridge girls tennis team poses for a photo after winning its fifth straight county title in early May. (Photo courtesy of Scott Dingman)

Kotnana, last spring's Howard County Times boys tennis Player of the Year, also rolled during the regular season and is the No. 1 seed and the favorite to defend is league title in boys singles. His top competition is Hammond's Origen Grear, the No. 2 seed, although he'll likely need to get past Marriotts Ridge junior and No. 3 seed Stephen Alam in order to face Kotnana. Alam placed third at the county tournament last season and competed in No. 1 singles during the regular season, losing just two matches. Oakland Mills' Bilal Rashid is seeded fourth.

In boys doubles, Mt. Hebron's Alex Nazaire and Michael Kimack are seeded first. Kimack last year teamed up with Tess Weber in mixed doubles, and the duo finished second at the county tournament and then reached the state championship match. Nazaire, meanwhile, placed third in the county alongside Angela Wang in mixed doubles.

Their biggest challenge is Marriotts Ridge's Brandon Tseytlin and Revanth Bairi. Tseytlin, a junior, played mostly No. 1 doubles throughout the season, while Bairi, a freshman, saw most of his action at No. 2 singles. River Hill's Zayd Khan and Kevin Liang are seeded third, and Howard's James Fusco and Quinn Dunnigan are seeded fourth.

The top-seeded team in girls doubles is Howard duo Alyssa Boryachinskiy and Kailey Caroland. The pair has been playing together for several years now and won the county title two seasons ago before reaching the finals last spring. During this regular season, they both went undefeated — Caroland played No. 1 singles and Boryachinskiy competed in No. 2 singles — but they also went 4-0 playing doubles together.

The No. 2 seed is Marriotts Ridge duo Savana Owens and Avani Badugu. The juniors won double-digit matches playing together in No. 1 doubles during the regular season. Howard's Jade Sawyer and Megan Clifford are seeded third, and Centennial's Angela Kou and Lia LasCasas are seeded fourth.

Finally, the top-seeded mixed doubles pair is Centennial's Peter Ho and Olivia Tsai. Ho was an All-County player last spring and placed second at the county and regional tournaments playing in boys doubles the last two years, while Tsai was one of the top freshmen in the county last year and won the mixed doubles county title alongside Andy Tseng. Ho helped the Eagles boys team go undefeated during the regular season and a mixed doubles county title this year could help Centennial repeat as County Cup champions.

However, they may need to get past River Hill's Anna Artazova and Kartik Gupta, the No. 2 seed, in order to win the mixed doubles title. Artazova has experience in mixed doubles, as she teamed with Prateek Swamykumar to place second in the event at the county and regional tournaments two years ago. She is also the defending county and regional champion in girls singles and won a match at the state tournament. Gupta, a sophomore, played mostly doubles during the regular season, but coach Kelley Pfefferkorn believes the duo can compete for all three postseason titles.

Howard's Sage Fenton and Blake Tammaro are seeded third and Mt. Hebron's Angela Wang and Abhishek Venkat are the No. 4 seed.

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