Before he had unleashed a single serve in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, La Plata freshman Daniel Barnas had earned a reputation among coaches and players as a force to be reckoned with.

Barnas has only cemented his status as a rising star in the SMAC -- and perhaps in the state -- after posting a 19-1 overall record this season, during which he captured the conference and Maryland Region IV singles titles. Barnas won both with victories over Northern's Albert Fitch, the defending conference champion, who handed the 14-year-old his only loss in the regular season.

Barnas will be making his first appearance in the state tournament that begins tomorrow at the University of Maryland in College Park, but he is a veteran on the junior tennis circuit. He is ranked 12th among boys 14 and under in the U.S. Tennis Association's Mid-Atlantic Region.

"It is his first appearance at the states, and there are some very high-ranked players out of Montgomery County," Lackey Co-coach Sue Craig said. "But it would be great if he could get through the first couple of rounds. He's a terrific player."

Among the other SMAC players to advance to states are Fitch in boys' singles and Lackey's Kelly Lai, who as a sophomore this season won her second consecutive SMAC title with a victory over Westlake's Vi Le. Le also earned a berth in the state championship in girls' singles.

Lackey's Michael Lai and Maelina Sakaio will play in mixed doubles; so will Matt Chisolm and Jocelyn Gray of La Plata, who defeated the Lackey duo to earn the region title. La Plata's Erica Hocking and Melissa Loeper, who went 20-0 and won SMAC and region championships, will compete in girls' doubles. Northern's Kaylie Thompson and Dale Miller also earned a berth at states.

In boys' doubles, region champions Jeff Ocker and Justin Benedik of Patuxent will compete along with runners-up Gonzolo Reusche and Justin Russell of Leonardtown.

Northern's Albert Fitch fully extends in reaching for the ball in his loss to La Plata's Daniel Barnas in the SMAC boys' singles final May 15. Fitch still advances to states, though.Kelly Lai of Lackey will play for the state girls' singles title this weekend at the University of Maryland in College Park.