This spring's Maryland state tennis tournament confirmed what Churchill Coach Ben Woods had suspected all season: The state's top high school tennis players reside in Montgomery County.
Montgomery schools won four of the five events at the tournament June 2 at the University of Maryland.
Churchill crowned a pair of champions: freshman Jared Pinsky claimed the boys' singles title and junior Maggie MacKeever won the girls' singles event.
Whitman's doubles team of Jeffrey Luse and Nima Ossareh claimed the boys' title, and Walter Johnson's Debbie Lin and Tiffany Hodges won the girls' doubles championship. Paint Branch's Katrina Aben and Eric Sundstrom placed second in the mixed-doubles event -- just missing a clean sweep for the county.
In all, 15 players earned top-four finishes.
The secret to the county's success has been in its scheduling, Woods said. Pinsky played in the Bulldogs' No. 1 singles slot in his first varsity season and lost three matches. He lost a tight match to last year's state champion, Michael Goodwin of Richard Montgomery, in the 4A West Region final but did not face him in the state tournament.
The county's No. 1 players "can go a whole high school season playing some good competition," Woods said. "You get that during the year along with their year-round play and they start coming out. It was nice seeing these guys win. At the region tournament and state tournament, we're all one team. . . . To dominate like this was huge. We have always scored well at the state tournament, but this was tremendous.
"In the county as a whole, a lot of the kids play tennis year-round. They do the clinics, the lessons, the tournaments. All the exposure they get playing year-round shows up in these tournaments."
MacKeever went undefeated for the second consecutive regular season but had a much happier experience at the state tournament this year. Last season, she won both the Montgomery County and 4A West Region titles but dropped her first-round match at the state tournament to Glenelg's Julia Facchina. MacKeever prevailed this year in a pair of tight semifinal and final matches. She defeated Catonsville's Ashley Harvey in three sets before edging Facchina in the final, 7-5, 6-4.
"I guess I got my revenge," MacKeever said.
"That was not a pleasant experience for Maggie to end [last] year on," Woods said. "That was motivation. She anticipated going further and stepped up her game."
Like her teammate Pinsky, MacKeever is a nationally ranked USTA Junior player who plays an extensive tournament schedule. With all that, however, MacKeever said claiming the state tournament may be her biggest thrill.
"Outside tournaments are really just for us to know about," MacKeever said. "Winning a state tournament lets everyone know what we do and how good we are. So it's exciting and it is a thrill."
Pinsky showed little difficulty adjusting to varsity competition, saving his best play for the end of the season. He knocked off Centennial freshman Ryan Lissner in the final, 6-4, 6-4.
"Jared is a phenom," Woods said. "Each week he has been getting better and better and he picked the week of the state tournament to have it going on all cylinders. When he is on, he can pull you out of position and take the ball cross-court. When he is on, he is doing all the things that you teach him."