Call it the Carnes factor.

What other explanation could there be for the incredible success of two former South Carroll High athletes this season?

Mike Mooney is an offensive lineman at Georgia Tech, which was voted by several polls as the nation's top major college football team last fall after going 11-0-1 and crushing Nebraska, 45-21, in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day.

Melanee Wagener plays on the University of Virginia women's basketball team, which boasted a 21-1 record asof late last week. The Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 in the country byboth the Associated Press and United Press International.

Both Mooney and Wagener are juniors.

Both play on Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

Both are starters.

And by the end of March, both could find themselves as members of national championship teams.

And what's the high school thread -- aside from going to South Carroll -- that brings these two together?

Tennis and coach Jim Carnes.

Now, great tennis isn't the first thing you think of when you talk about a 300-pound boy and a 6-foot-2 girl. And to be sure, tennis wasn't the primary sport for either one.

But the fact that both played tennis -- and played it pretty well -- is an indication of just how athletically gifted these two are.

Mooney, who graduated from South Carroll in 1987 (he sat out his freshman year at Georgia Tech as a red-shirt) teamed with Eric Gettemy to win the county boys doubles title. The year before, by the way, Mooney competed in track and was fifthin the county in the shot put.

A year later, Wagener and Sharon Newman teamed to win the county girls doubles title.

Both Wagener and Mooney were actually three-sport standouts. Wagener was an all-county and honorable mention All-Metro volleyball player, and Mooney wasa starter for Carnes' boys basketball teams, once scoring 31 points.

Wagener was especially agile for her height, Mooney unusually quickfor his size. Such mobility has served them well in their collegiate careers.

But if you really want to discover why both are fortunateenough to be starting on potential major college champions, you haveto consider the Carnes factor -- the South Carroll tennis connection, if you will.

That should be good news for Washington College men'sbasketball coach Tom Finnegan.

His Shoremen last year reached the NCAA Division III Final Four, but they've fallen on hard times this year. Finnegan's rebuilding process should reach its climax in two years.

That's when South Carroll graduate Geoff Rupert will be a junior at the small college in Chestertown, Kent County.

Rupert, a standout on the Cavaliers boys basketball team and last year's Player of theYear in Carroll -- as chosen by The Sun -- also was one of the better tennis players in the county a year ago.

If the Carnes factor holds true, the Shoremen might as well be penciled in as preseason favorites for the NCAA Division III men's basketball title for the 1992-93 season.

As for any South Carroll student-athletes who'd like to playon a national champion college team, here's a bit of advice: Earn yourself a spot on the Cavaliers' tennis team.

It often leads to good things.

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