A smile of contentment and pride crossed Jay Phillips' face as he scanned the tennis courts.
Phillips, the tennis coach at Bullis School, was admiring his top three players -- Danny Goldie, Damian Sancilio and Brian Hanfling -- as they competed side by side in the recent Interscholastic Athletic Conference (IAC) championships.
Goldie and Hanfling won their matches and ended the season 20-0 while Sancilio lost to finish 18-2.
Few high schools have had three players as talented as Goldie, Sancilio and Hanfling in their lineup at once. At the end of last year, they were ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 11, respectively, in the Mid-Atlantic Tennis Association's 16-and-under age group. Goldie, a semifinalist in the prestigious nationals at Kalamazoo, Mich., last summer, also attained a national ranking of 10th in the 16s.
Goldie, Sancilio and Hanfling are expected to receive tennis scholarships at major universities when they graduate next year and Goldie, according to local authorities, has the ability to play professionally.
As Phillips observed the three players, the thought of how improbable their presence is at Bullis could not have been far from his mind. Just last year, they were scattered around high schools from Washington to Richmond. Phillips' big break came last July when Goldie announced he was transferring to Bullis from McLean, where he sat out his sophomore season due to a lack of competition.
Goldie's decision a chain reaction. Attracted by Bullis' academic reputation and Goldie as a prospective teammate, Hanfling left W.T. Woodson High School and Sancilio moved from Richmond, where his family still lives to attend Bullis.
"It stunned me," Phillips said of his windfall. "I couldn't believe it. I asked myself, 'How could this be happening to me?'"
Playing a challenging schedule, Bullis had a 15-5 record this season (including a victory over the Navy junior varisty) and was one of 16 teams selected to compete in the National Interscholastic Tennis Championships Saturday though June 17 at Duke University. Bullis will be making its first appearance in the tournament, which rival Landon has won four times.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the National Interscholastics' format allows Goldie, Sancilio, Hanfling and Tommy Chaikin, fourth on the team ladder, to play singles and doubles. The IAC limits players to one match per event and Bullis, lacking depth, finished just 3-3 in league play.
Goldie, the showpiece of the team, is said to be as good as any player Washington has produced, with the exception of Harold Solomon.
"He's comparable to Jim and Chris (Delaney) at the same stage and he's definitely ahead of Freddie (McNair)," said Jack Schore, director of junior development at the Regency Racquet Club and coach of Goldie, Sancilio and Hanfling. "Harold was tougher and played the big points better. Fundamentally, Danny is as sound as anybody . . . I think he has the potential to be one of the top 50 players in the world."
Goldie's trademarks are intensity and perfection. Although most comfortable at the baseline, Goldie is not content just to return the ball. He pounds each shot with all his might, grunting from exertion.
Temperamentally, Goldie is much more similar to vocal, high-strung John McEnroe than placid Bjorn Borg. After unforced errors, which infuriate him, Goldie is likely to berate himself aloud with sarcastic comments such as, "I played better when I was 12."
"He has a tremendous desire to excel," Phillips said. "He will not accept anything mediocre. Sometimes he's his own worst enemy because he tells himself he's not supposed to make any mistakes."
"A lot (of Goldie's future success) will depend on how he matures as a thinker," Schore agreed. "He has to learn to play under duress, to win when everything is not going perfectly."