Overall, it was a tough Day 1 for the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference at the state high school tennis tournament at Essex Community College in Baltimore.
Only Leonardtown advanced players past their opening matches Friday. The girls doubles team of Elaine Chun and Adriana Guido made it to the second round, while the mixed doubles team of Briana Jimenez and Stephen Munley advanced to yesterday's semifinals.
The four other SMAC doubles teams and the three individual conference representatives -- including honorable mention All-Mets Eric Wong of Westlake and Kim Payne of Calvert -- were eliminated in the first round.
State tournament futility is nothing new for the league, said Great Mills Coach Mike Buonviri. Last season, the conference sent six doubles teams and four individuals to the tournament, and only Wong got as far as the quarterfinals. Three doubles teams and all of the other singles players were eliminated in Round 1.
"That's traditional for Southern Maryland," Buonviri said. "I hate to say it, but that's the way it's been."
Buonviri added that players in other areas of Maryland compete year-round, making them tougher to beat come state tournament time. That's why he was so pleased with Julie Gustafson's attitude after the Hornets' top girls singles player lost in straight sets to third-seeded Danielle Hess of Bel Air in the first round.
She didn't get mad and she didn't get upset, Buonviri said. After the match she hugged her parents and said, "Next year."
"Next year my goal will be to make it past the first round," Gustafson said. "[Hess] had a lot of spin, which I'm not used to. She's real consistent. She hit everything."
"The composure she showed shows a lot to me," Buonviri said. "The fact she took it so well speaks volumes for her as a player and as a person. She did everything she could. She said she's really proud she made it this far."
The same goes for Jennifer Pleva and Brandy Merriman. The Thomas Stone girls doubles team's postseason blitz ended in the first round with a 6-4, 6-4 loss to Jennifer Messick and Sydney Brooks of Cambridge South Dorchester.
The pair finished the regular season at 10-4 and finished fourth in the SMAC. But they regrouped at the Region IV tournament to make the finals, where they lost to Chun and Guido.
"They were expecting to get here," Thomas Stone Coach Ralph Roland said. "They realized they had to pick up their game because no one was going to give them anything. They picked up their intensity and did what they had to do. This is serious tennis when you get here."
In singles action, Calvert's Payne lost to Towson's Veena Rao, 6-4, 6-3, but was competitive. Meanwhile, the fourth-seeded Wong was simply outplayed in the latter stages of his match against Northwest's Brett Johnson, falling 7-6 (7-5), 6-0.
For the Westlake senior, it marked the end of a four-year career in which he went 87-5 and dominated SMAC and Region IV play. But Wong never found overwhelming success at states, losing in the second round in both 1997 and '98.
"He had a good four years," Westlake Coach Drew Jepsky said. "He's looking to move on. You only get one of these players once in a lifetime. I'll miss him."
First round: Veena Rao, Towson, def. Kim Payne, Calvert, 6-4, 6-3; Danielle Hess, Bel Air, def. Julie Gustafson, Great Mills, 6-0, 6-0.
First round: Jennifer Messick/Sydney Brooks, CSD, def. Brandy Merriman/Jennifer Pleva, Thomas Stone, 6-4, 6-4; Elaine Chun/Adriana Guido, Leonardtown, def. Virginia Jorde/Andrea Sersen, Chesapeake, 6-0, 6-4. Second round: Brooke Foster/Heather Easter, N. Carroll, def. Chun/Guido, 6-4, 6-0.
First round: Brett Johnson, Northwest, def. Eric Wong, Westlake, 7-6, (7-5), 6-0.
Rhushan Lele/Mike Shen, JMB, def. Reyadh Al-Banna/Tom Whedbee, Calvert, 6-7 (8-6), 6-3, 6-3; Sean Paul/Pat Kapelanczyk, Bel Air, def. Josh Smith/Troy Barricklow, Westlake, 6-7 (7-2), 6-0, 6-3.
First round: Natalie Diamond/Matt Levinson, Pikesville, def. Amanda O'Rourke/Ryan Blace, Calvert, 0-6, 6-4, 6-2; Briana Jimenez/Stephen Munley, Leonardtown, def. Matt Able/Jessica Lano, Centennial, 6-2, 6-4. Second round: Jimenez/Munley def. Jen Buntin/Jacob Cook, S. Decatur, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
CAPTION: Amanda O'Rourke of Calvert returns a shot in a first-round mixed-doubles match against Pikesville. O'Rourke and her partner, Ryan Blace, lost in three sets.