In the midst of 90-degree heat, two unseeded county doubles teams netted top honors in Saturday's state tennis championships at the University of Maryland at College Park.
In the boys doubles bracket, Old Mill's Phil White and Matt Pharr came from behind to upend the fourth-seeded pair of Matt Brown and Rameen Soltani of Churchill High (Montgomery County), 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3). Severna Park's mixed doubles duo of Erica Fulton and Ben Rawitt subdued Perry Hall's (Baltimore County) top-seeded team of Jen Goodwin and Scott Lortz, 6-1, 6-4.
White and Pharr earned the spot in the championship match by knocking off top-seeded Steve Soliday and Matt Cory of Bowie (Prince Georges County) in the semifinals, 6-3, 6-3. However, both players agreed that Friday's quarterfinal match was the turning point of the weekend.
The senior tandem had already lost the first set to Stephan Decatur's (Wicomico County) Dale Cathell and Alex Fraschetti, 4-6, and were on the losing end of a 1-5 score with two match points against them in the second set. White and Pharr proceeded to save both points -- and the game -- en route to rattling off five straight games thereafter to tie the match at one set each. They easily won the deciding set by a 6-3 count.
"The quarterfinals definitely gave us the confidence we needed for the rest of the tournament", said White, who won last year's state title with '91 graduate Brent Layman. "After the match, we said, 'Hey, we won one tough match already, let's win the whole thing.' "
After splitting the first two sets in the championship match, the Patriot twosome squandered their first golden opportunity to win, losing a 5-3, 40-love lead to trail, 5-6. As in the quarterfinals, White and Pharr showed the grit of true champions to win the next two games.
"I think we had the advantage going into the [title] match, because we had a lot more rest than they did," said White. "Their semifinal match lasted about three hours. So while they were playing, we sat around in the shade and loaded up on water."
The road to the state crown was a tad easier for Fulton and Rawitt, who began playing together during the last week of the regular season. The underclassmen won all four of their matches in straight sets -- including a 6-3, 7-5 semifinal triumph over second-seeded Kiera Levine and Karl Copenhaver of Bethesda Chevy-Chase.
"I think our semifinal match was the toughest of the whole tournament," said Fulton, a junior who played No. 1 girls doubles during most of the regular season. Rawitt, a sophomore who played No. 1 boys singles for most of the season, attributed their success to their loss in the region finals to Chesapeake's Staci Jenkins and Mark Meyer.
"That loss really made us concentrate harder during the states. It gave us a better outlook on what we had to do to win [the states]. This feels kind of nice."
Third-seeded Jenkins and Meyer reached the quarterfinals of the mixed doubles tourney before losing a 2-6, 6-2, 6-7 decision to Walt Whitman's Amanda Shaw and Nate Max. Severna Park's Sarah Keller and Allison Milchanowski lost in the quarters to second-seeded and eventual state runner-up Elyse Kaplan and Dori Feldman (Pikesville, Baltimore County), 6-0, 6-2.
In singles action, Old Mill's Matt Servinsky and South River freshman Priya Vajani were downed by Montgomery County foes.
Servinsky lost, 2-6, 2-6, in the boys opening round to Whitman's Herman Swart, while Vajani was trimmed in the first round of girls play by Churchill's Tracey Gold, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6.