Friday night, Leonardtown High School tennis player Stephen Munley made a phone call he originally had thought wouldn't be necessary: He called his boss at Breton Bay swim club, asking to be excused from work the next day.
Munley needed Saturday off because he and partner Briana Jimenez had advanced to the state high school tennis mixed doubles semifinals with two wins that afternoon. In doing so, the duo became the first and last Southern Maryland Athletic Conference players to reach the finals in the 1990s. The pair lost to another unseeded team -- Central-South Dorchester's Brooke Fleetwood and Shan Shariff -- in the title match, 6-1, 6-3.
Although this was Jimenez's first year playing in Maryland after playing in Texas the past two seasons, Munley played in the state tournament last year with Michael Schaffer, who was a senior at the time, and the duo lost in the first round. Munley had little reason to think this year would be different, so he scheduled work for Saturday.
"People were saying, `How come you're not being optimistic?' " Munley said. "I said, `I'm being realistic, because I know the quality of players.' "
Munley said he didn't think he and Jimenez could beat Fleetwood and Shariff -- who had upset No. 2-seeded Laura Townsend and Matt Kapelanczyk of Bel Air in the quarterfinals -- but that they could have provided a better match.
Along the way, the Raiders knocked off the top seeds, Matt Able and Jessica Lano of Centennial, in the quarterfinals, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, then won their semifinal match over the No. 3 seed, Arundel's Ann Buschman and Chris Beegle, 6-0, 6-3.
"At least we got someone in every decade," Leonardtown Coach Tom Laurel said. "They were focused. [In the quarterfinals] even when we were behind, we came back and won."
Munley and Jimenez both played at No. 1 singles during the regular season for the Raiders. They decided, however, that their best chance at states would be to play together at mixed doubles. They seemed like a good match -- both were born on April 1, about 15 minutes apart.
They were right: They won the SMAC and Region IV tournaments en route to their second-place finish in the state.
"I need someone to talk to," said Jimenez, adding that playing mixed doubles was more fun after a season of singles.
Both juniors will practice this summer in the hopes of making a run at the singles title next year.
Although this tournament was more relaxed for them overall, their two matches Saturday were somewhat stressful because of the different prematch routines each required. For the semifinal, they barely had time to warm up after they got out of the car close to 8 a.m. The match ended a little after 9 a.m., and there was a three-hour wait until the final. Both players said the wait between the semifinals and the final hurt them. Jimenez tried to take a short nap.
"For some reason in the finals we didn't play very well," Laurel said.
But that didn't discourage Munley.
"[Making the semifinals] is more than I can ask for," he said. "That's a great accomplishment."