Sherlock Holmes need not be called in to figure out the better team in Montgomery County high school tennis this season.
Walt Whitman and Winston Churchill will meet this Monday at 2:30 p.m. at Churchill to resolve the issue.
The two teams have dominated Montgomery tennis. Churchill has won its division title four of the last five years and the county title three of the last five years. When Churchill hasn't won the county crown, Whitman has.
It is the proximity of talent, and of the schools' locations, that breeds a natural rivalry.
"This is the match that decides who wins the county team title," said Craig Shelburne of Whitman. "It's not full of bad feelings; it's just very important."
Churchill's number one singles player, David Kanstroom, was runner-up to Whitman's Billy Schief in the division, county, regional and state championships last year. Schief, however, is out with tendinitis in his right arm and has not played since Christmas. But team rumors have it that Schief will return to play Churchill May 6.
"Personally, I hope he does come back then," said Shelburne, who is battling with Nick White for the No. 1 position in Schief's absence. "But he can't expect to just win after being out so long. If we don't have Billy back, we'll have to win the No. 2 and No. 3 singles."
Churchill has defeated Whitman five of the last six times they have met in the regular season, winning by 7-0 last year.
Churchill returns the state doubles championship team of Andy Soane and Hugh Lynch IV. But the stiffest competition the pair might face comes from their own team. Coach Hugh Lynch III says George Brodie and Robbie Noyes have an excellent chance of dethroning their teammates.
For Whitman, Shelburne is ranked No. 3 in the Mid-Atlantic Tennis Association and White is No. 5. K.C. Kado and Spencer Moser add depth.
"We'll do okay," said Bob Butler, who is filling in for 22-year Whitman coach Hugh Hammett, sidelined by a heart attack three weeks ago. "We've got pretty good depth."
The performance against Churchill may hinge on the doubles matches. Whitman's doubles teams are made up of freshmen and sophomores: Bobby Simon and Harris Solomon, and Brian Nun and Greg Koss.
But the Whitman-Churchill match is a little more than family entertainment.
"It's more like team tennis then," said Lynch. "It is something special for the tournament players. It's great at the end of the match seeing the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 players screaming and yelling for the doubles players at six and seven. Those double matches become the focal point of attention for the stars."