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As one coaching era came to an end in Westminster, another one emerged this season at Francis Scott Key. Along the way, a number of players had a chance to shine and made the most of their opportunities in a balanced season of county tennis.

When Ken Shook's girls team at Westminster finished second in the county last season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, he had a notion the prospects for the 1995 season were good.

With injuries and players out of the lineup early in the season, the Owls dropped their first three matches before coming back to win their last 10. By season's end, the Owls were playing the best tennis in the Central Maryland Conference, defeating previously unbeaten Thomas Johnson of Frederick County.

Shook, in his 10th year, announced his retirement after winning his fifth county title. He went out on top and was selected as The Baltimore Sun's Girls Coach of the Year in Carroll.

The situation was similar at Francis Scott Key where the boys got a taste of success last season and ran with it this year under first-year coach Derrick Hess. Hess, who played four years at Key in the mid-80s, guided the Eagles to an 11-2 record and their first county championship. He was an easy choice as The Baltimore Sun's Boys Coach of the Year in Carroll.

Earning recognition on the girls first team were singles players Kristy Matthai (Westminster) and Laurie Kreseski (North Carroll). Two doubles teams -- South Carroll's Amber Clutter and Lindsey Vosloh, and Westminster's Kristen Hoffmeyer and Sarah Clark -- also stood above the rest.

Key's Judith Finstersbush, an exchange student from Germany, earned honorable mention along with South Carroll's No. 2 doubles team of Sara Wachter and Carrie Tamburo.

Selected to the boys first team were South Carroll's Andrew Stevens and Westminster's Steve Flora at singles. The top doubles team was North Carroll's Brian Mayle and Derrick Easter, with Key's duo of Collin Caprarola and Ryan Griffin also getting a spot on the first team. Honorable mention went to Key's No. 2 doubles team of Kai Vorhoelter and Pete Green.

Matthai led the Owls to their county title with an 11-4 overall record and 5-1 showing in the county. Her only county loss came in the finals of the county tournament against Kreseski, a two-time county champ. The team of Hoffmeyer and Clark (10-3) were the regular-season force in the county, going undefeated. The only question Shook had going in was who would play No. 3 doubles. The answer was seniors Brandy Baumgardner and Rose Schwing, who dropped their first match before winning their last 12.

"We had gone through this rebuilding year last season and still finished second in the county," said Shook. "This year, I knew we had six returning seniors and I knew if they could build on the experience from last year, the only thing I would have to come up with was the No. 3 doubles spot. By the end of the season, we were the best team in the CMC and the county."

Clutter and Vosloh (19-4, state quarterfinalists) twice lost to Hoffmeyer and Clark in the regular season, but avenged the losses in the county tournament. In the county finals, the South Carroll pair dropped the first set to the Westminster team before winning the last two -- 6-4, 6-1 -- to win the title. For Clutter, a four-year letter winner, it was the third county doubles championship with her third partner.

Stevens finished unbeaten in county play during the regular season for South Carroll before falling to Flora in the county championship.

The top doubles team was clearly from North Carroll, where Mayle and Easter -- both juniors -- swept through the county tournament without losing a set. In the finals, they had an easy time getting by Key's team of Vorhoelter and Green -- 6-1, 6-2.

"They went from third doubles last year to first doubles," said North Carroll first-year coach Mike Klingenberg. "They handled it very well. They knew there was a chance they would be at No. 1 going in and they worked hard and came committed. They had some tough losses in the beginning, but continued gaining confidence."

No players found themselves in a more pressure-filled situation than Key's Caprarola and Griffin. With the Eagles' season-ending match against Westminster tied at 2 and the county title on the line, they trailed Andy Roysdon and Mike Dickinsheets 9-8 before rallying to claim an 11-9 win.

Caprarola, who served a great last game to close out the match, said: "I told Ryan before our match we were waiting for this for four years and the time had come. It felt really good walking off the court, I couldn't keep the smile off my face."

Hess summed up the entire team's effort days after the Westminster win: "There was a lot of emotion when the kids realized they had done something nobody else had done. Every kid played with so much heart, that was the best thing about it."

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