The loud lefties from Bowie weren't hard to miss at last weekend's state tennis tournament at Essex Community College outside of Baltimore. Everything from their wardrobes to their unorthodox styles of play set them apart.
So did the doubles team's finish. Saeed Ashrafzadeh and Keith Paterno captured third place with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Urbana's Andrew Holsinger and Sean Cameron. Tournament officials believe that is the highest finish by a Prince George's team in state tournament history.
Also winning matches before losing in the second round were Bowie's mixed doubles team of Maurice Taylor and Shannon Ballard and Eleanor Roosevelt girls singles player Lesley Price. The Raiders' Clint Lee and Oxon Hill's Jamon Clayton, the county's other qualifiers, lost in the first round.
During the regular season, Ashrafzadeh played No. 1 singles and Paterno played No. 1 doubles. They thought their best chance in the state tournament would be to team up in doubles. They practiced together for the first time before their first district match and won districts and regions to earn a No. 3 seed in the state tournament.
In Friday's first two rounds, Ashrafzadeh and Paterno defeated Annapolis's Jacob Barnes and Diego Cwaigehaft, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), and North Hagerstown's John Muto and Christian Neagu, 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 7-5.
Friday also was the day the Bowie team literally took the collar. Paterno, not a fan of collared shirts, ripped the collar off his shirt after the team's second match.
"I have a problem with collars," Paterno said. "They're too tight. I don't like them on my arms, especially when I get sunburned."
Officials warned Paterno about a rule that bars a player from altering his shirt and told him he would have to find a new shirt for the semifinals. Paterno (wearing a white Bowie T-shirt) and Ashrafzadeh lost to Churchill's Kyle Hatten and Rob Annis, 6-2, 6-1, but won their consolation match.
"They're a little free-spirited," Bowie Coach Erich Yost said of Ashrafzadeh and Paterno. "They don't take tennis and life too serious, which is good when you're in high school."
In practice, Paterno occasionally would play right-handed for fun. The pair is also vocal on the court.
"We're the loudest two guys out here on the doubles side," Paterno said. "If we get down on ourselves we won't hit anything in. So we have to be out there loud and screaming 'C'mon!' every point.
"We fool around but we'll still play. If we miss a shot I'll laugh at it. I tend to be very calm on the court even though I scream. I'll laugh at my mistakes. [Ashrafzadeh] gets really mad and will put the next one right down the guy's throat. That's his way of dealing with anger. I'll just laugh it off. He'll get really mad and hit the next ball twice as hard."
The two complement each other. Ashrafzadeh is better from the baseline, Paterno is better at the net. Both are smart players. The left-handers lined up in a straight line during serves, confusing opponents.
Bowie's mixed doubles team of Ballard and Taylor also were paired together last season, but lost in the regions. This year they finished second in the region and beat Whitman's Diedre Connors and John Conroy, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, in the first round Friday. They then lost to Central South Dorchester's Brooke Fleetwood and Shan Shariff, 6-2, 6-4, in the second round. Fleetwood and Shariff went on to win the state title.
Eleanor Roosevelt's Price defeated Urbana's Cassie Meyer, 6-1, 6-0, in the first round before losing to Wicomico's Jessie Rybacki, 6-1, 6-4, in the second round.
CAPTION: Bowie's Maurice Taylor (above) and Shannon Ballard made second round in mixed doubles.