Fallston junior Paul Shearer is methodically working his way through a second straight tennis season with an unbeaten record against county opposition, but it has not been easier the second time around.
This marks the first year the county tennis matches have been decided by two sets, plus a tiebreaker where necessary, and Shearer has split sets once and had several other close outings. In previous years, the matches were just one pro set of eight games with a tiebreaker.
Two of Shearer's best matches to date were against Felix Baudenbacher, an exchange student from Switzerland who is at Bel Air. The two teams met on the first day of the schedule, with Shearer rallying from 0-5 to win 7-5, 6-0, and Fallston winning the match, 6-5.
Bel Air won a second meeting, 7-4, and that time Baudenbacher opened a 5-1 lead and won the first set, 6-2. Shearer came back to win the second set, 6-4, then outlasted his foe in the tiebreaker, 10-8.
"These were rough conditions -- cold and windy -- and neither of us was at the top of our game," Shearer said. "There was a lot of pressure in the tie-break. Last year, I was up in a tie-break against unbeaten Ben Jacobs of Elkton, so it would have been an upset if I had won [he didn't]. I was tense and nervous, bouncing around and thinking about winning.
"Actually, as a freshman, I wasn't as serious about the game, but then I got pounded in the second round of the county tournament and vowed it would never happen again." It hasn't.
Shearer finished third in the region last year, but sees the shift to two sets to conform with the rest of the state and better county opposition at No. 1 singles as reasons for higher expectations now.
"This time, we'll go into the regionals used to playing two sets, so we should be better physically and mentally, and players such as Mike Clark at Havre de Grace, Matt McFarlane at C. Milton Wright, and the two exchange students [Baudenbacher and Thijs Hielkema of North Harford] are tough opponents. Last year, the most anybody in the county got was two games."
Fallston coach Barry Angel, as well as Shearer, admit Shearer is more mature now, and it has helped not only his tennis, but his academics.
"I'm trying to reach a 3.0 average for the first time. You have to be well-balanced [academics and athletics]," Shearer said.
Among the teams, which play a home-and-away county schedule, Bel Air (8-1) has lost only to Fallston, and Wright (10-1) PTC has lost only to Bel Air, 6-5. The once-beaten teams will play each other again May 1 at Wright.
John Carroll golf
John Carroll (3-2-1) will be seeking to make up for its only tie when it faces Loyola tomorrow at Pine Ridge GC.
The team, which has not played in 15 days, is working on a two-match winning streak after stunning Gilman and Calvert Hall (making up for an earlier loss) in successive outings. It marked the first time John Carroll had beaten the two perennially strong schools in the same season in years.
Miguel Rivera, one of the top Juniors in the Middle Atlantic area, is the No. 1 player, although the emerging strength of this group was shown when he lost for the first time this season, 2 1/2 - 1/2 , to Alan Phillips, but the others came through to defeat Calvert Hall, 11-7, in a home match at Maryland Golf & CC.
Rivera, who has signed with the University of Maryland, is backed by sophomore returnees Michael Peterson and Jason Reynolds; junior newcomers Michael Penrose and David Tobash, who formerly played baseball; and senior John Cone, who played two years ago, then did not go out for the team last year.
"There are days when we can play with anybody, and there are others when anything can happen," said coach Henry Mountain. "When we beat Gilman [10-8], that was its first loss, and our Nos. 5 and 6 players came through."
Rivera is the acknowledged leader and motivator, but the others have provided a good mix and, according to Mountain, "They are a dedicated group and I think we can do some more damage in the league [Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association]."
After Loyola, the Patriots will have McDonogh Thursday and Mount St. Joseph and Gilman (1-2 in the league) next week.
Siobhan Kelly (Belcamp/Aberdeen), a sophomore at Mount St. Mary's, recently teamed with Jennifer Sheehe at third doubles to produce the tennis team's only point in a loss to the University of Maryland at College Park. For the season, the school had its best women's tennis record (13-1) and Kelly was 1-6 in singles and 5-5 in doubles.
Another Mount student, sophomore Tonia Bruno (Jarrettsville/North Harford) leads the softball team in four categories and is third in the Northeast Conference in stolen bases with 16. She has scored 29 runs, hit two homers, walked 17 times and is hitting .295.
At Goucher, freshman midfielder Jodie Manning (Baldwin/John Carroll) had a goal and an assist in a 25-0 win over Washington College, With only Widener (tomorrow) left on the regular-season schedule, the Gophers are 11-1, and Manning has six goals and two assists.