With youngsters raised on plenty of backyard tennis courts and various clubs in the area, the Great Falls District has no choice but to dominate the remainder of the Northern Region in high school tennis.
"Their are a lot of families in this area with affluence that can give their kids lessons," said Langley Coach Anne Beasley, whose team is one of the strongest in the region.
But Madison is the creme de la creme. The defending state champs are back even stronger this year, and even with a new coach, should have no problems repeating.
Under first-year Coach Celeste Tethal's new system, senior Leah Palmer, who is the district champion and whom many consider the best player in the region, is being challenged for her team's No. 1 rank, which she's held for three years. "I'm a new coach and I do things differently," said Tethal. "They are playing three games against each other and are all challenging for the top spot."
Palmer's challengers are junior Julie Seamon and sophomore Daria Ivan, who is an excellent player but didn't try out for the team last season. "We were thrilled to have her," said Tethal.
Langley, last year's regional runner-up, is just a notch below Madison and should complete a one-two repeat district sweep. The Saxons return the top five players from a year ago, including No.'s 2 and 3 in the district in sophomore Luna Han, who will give Palmer some stiff competition this year, and senior Pia Holm.
South Lakes, which tied for second with Langley but lost in a playoff to go to regions, graduated five seniors and shouldn't be as much of a threat this year. The Seahawks are lead by Nicole Debeaufort and Allison Abrams.
McLean has seven returners and could probably win other districts, but the Highlanders are realistically looking at a third place finish in this district. "I'm counting on third, but I'm really pushing for second, and you never know," said Coach Debbie Sejd. Her team is led by senior Emma Whitetnoe, who didn't play last year due to injury, and senior Evonne Sei. Freshman Chelsea Reck has been a welcome addition in the No. 3 slot.
Chantilly, Marshall, and Herndon are all in rebuilding years and will battle it out for the last three slots. Marshall likely is the best of the trio with four returners, including junior Lisa Thompson and senior Liz Slater. Herndon should follow the Statesmen, and Chantilly, which didn't win any matches last season, looks to improve its record.
As usual, the Northern District also has some quality teams out this year. W.T. Woodson lost six girls from last year's excellent squad, but, regardless of the circumstances, Coach Barbara Rogers is always able to put together a solid team.
West Springfield and Robinson, both with a good number of returners, appear to be the district favorites, with the Spartans likely the champions. Oakton also looks quite solid with its top five players returning. Allison DeBastiani, No.1 for the fourth straight year, will pace the Cougars. But the rest of the district is on a low right now, however, and will fight for the final spots.
Lake Braddock will probably be ahead of T.C. Williams, and look for Centreville, which hasn't won a match in two years -- but also hasn't ever graduated anyone -- to vastly improve.
In the Potomac District, Wakefield should be strong. Fairfax should challenge. The Rebels have six players returning, but Coach George Chinn says most have limited experience. But he does have senior Katie Gultnieks, who is probably just behind Palmer and Han in the region. Yorktown could also contend.
Falls Church also looks much improved this year, with five girls returning from 1989's five-win team. The Jaguars have Margie Saine who was No. 2 last year, to lead them and added Karine Vettraino, who transferred from Marshall and is challenging Vettraino for the No. 1 position. Three-time defending district champion Annandale graduated its top two players and another player quit. The Atoms will probably be in the middle of the pack. Washington-Lee, and Stuart will have a tough battle for the final spots.
In the Gunston District, defending champ Jefferson returns a slew of starters and should repeat. Traditionally, Lee is very strong but the Lancers lost a number of runners and will struggle to maintain their dominance. West Potomac has maybe the best runner in the district in Erica Padow and will probably challenge for the regions.