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Dominant performances at the Carroll County tennis championships

One was favored to win a Carroll County tennis title. The other was not.

For Liberty's Brittany Bolster and Westminster's Mike Wilkins, however, the common theme at last week's county tournament was dominance.

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While top-seeded Bolster became just the second girl to finish her career with four Carroll County titles, Wilkins emerged from the No. 3 seed to take his first.

Bolster earned her championship with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Century's Gabie Batista, improving to 18-0 entering this weekend's regional tournament, where she was looking to defend her title.

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Her success is no surprise to Lions co-coach Dave Abarbanel.

"Brittany is able to really dictate her points from the baseline better than almost anyone I've seen," Abarbanel said. "Both her forehand and backhand are exceptional, and she can really place them wherever she wants. In addition, she has a serve that is very tough to return for any male or female, I would think, in the county."

Aside from her court skills, her mental preparation also plays a major role, according to co-coach Tim Becker.

"She's a humble person ... and I think she's ready for every match no matter who she's playing," Becker said. "That's a tribute to her to always be mentally ready."

Bolster will continue her career next season at Shepherd University.

While Bolster was unquestionably the girls favorite, Wilkins took a different route to the boys title. The No. 3 seed avenged both of his regular-season losses by topping second-seeded Justin Smith of Francis Scott Key in the semifinals and top-seed Danny Deutsch of South Carroll in the finals, winning the latter 6-3, 7-5.

Wilkins had lost to Smith on a cold, windy day to open the season, and then fell to Deutsch in three sets just days later.

After starting 1-2, however, Wilkins had won 20 straight matches -- and 39 straight sets -- heading into the region semifinals. on May 10.

"We knew he was a better player than what his record showed early on," Westminster coach Fran McCullin said.

McCullin said that Wilkins, who will continue his career next season at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, wins with consistency.

"His nickname is 'The Machine.' We wind him up and he hits tennis balls," McCullin said. "Some kids would call him a backboard, because he gets everything back, he runs things down and he hustles and scraps for every point. His game is based on making it very, very difficult on you to win cheap points. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. You have to hit winners to beat him."

Other winners at the county tournament included Francis Scott Key's Tyler Forster and Ryan Miller (boys doubles), Westminster's Megan McCullin and Hillary Bollinger (girls doubles) and Francis Scott Key's Bethany Offutt and Matt Osterhouse (mixed doubles).

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Patriots take title

Even before they entered high school, Carroll Christian girls soccer coach Dan McLaughlin knew that his Class of 2008 would be well worth the wait.

"I had them in junior high when they were in sixth grade, and at that point I knew they were something special," McLaughlin said.

On Tuesday, the Patriots made their coach a prophet, defeating Harford Christian, 9-1, in the championship game of the Maryland Association of Christian Schools tournament to complete a 14-0 season. In three tournament games, they outscored their opponents, 32-1.

It marked the team's first conference title since 2002, when Carroll finished 10-0-2. Since then, the Patriots had lost in the finals three times, and the semifinals twice.

"We've come close with these girls the past four years, but basically come up one goal short every year," McLaughlin said.

With seven seniors this season, however, McLaughlin knew things would be different.

"About halfway through the season I thought [a perfect season] was possible," he said. "Most of our tough opponents were in the beginning of the season. Near the end, I thought the only difficult team we may have would be our last game against Harford, but it didn't really turn out that way."

Alyssa Hale led Carroll in the finals with three goals, while halfback Stephanie Zinnamosca was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Lions rebound

Despite a rough ending to the regular season, the Liberty baseball team appeared to be firing on all cylinders heading into tomorrow's Class 2A West title game.

After losing three of four games, the Lions opened the playoffs with a 14-1 win over Francis Scott Key on Tuesday, followed by a 12-2 win over North Hagerstown Thursday. They were originally scheduled top play in the regional final yesterday, but that game was expected to be pushed back to tomorrow because of last week's rain.

Coach Erik Barnes said that playing on five consecutive weekdays contributed to his team's late-season letdown. A little rest and a lot of batting practice, however, helped the Lions refocus.

"We had leads in all those games, but we just weren't able to hold them," Barnes said. "Then rain forced us inside into the cage ... and we just kind of refocused on some things from a hitting standpoint. We got back to some basic things that we were doing better at the beginning of the year."

Among those leading the way were junior first baseman Nick Hallis, who had a two-run triple against Key, then went 3-for-4, including a triple and home run, against North Hagerstown. Liberty also got complete-game victories from Dan Litfin and Garrett Price.

To submit news and story ideas about Carroll County high school athletics, contact Rich Scherr at CarrollSports@comcast.net.

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