The Long Reach tennis team's top boys' player was disqualified yesterday from the Howard County tennis tournament for violating a county guideline by walking off the court moments before the county championship singles match in protest, Howard County Coordinator of Athletics Don Disney said.

Michael Duong, a junior whose season ended at 13-3, abruptly left the court after handing his previously undefeated opponent, Centennial's Ryan Lissner a typed letter.

The letter stated that Duong respected Lissner as a player and wanted to compete against him. But Long Reach believed other teams had used their top players in positions to play against weaker opponents during the regular season to give them an advantage, according to tournament director Peter Finck, who confiscated the letter and refused to release its exact contents to the media."It was all my idea," Duong said. "A lot of teams were putting their good players lower in the lineup and it was making the season not very fun. My progression in the tournament did not mean that much to me and maybe, the county will look into this so it does not happen again next season."

Disney said the county will only send the top three finishers from yesterday's tournament to next week's Region III tournament -- even though it is entitled to send its top four finishers to regionals.

During the regular season, each boys' and girls' team must have its top two players -- as determined by intrasquad challenge matches -- play No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, and coaches form three doubles teams based on the strongest combinations of remaining players, according to county guidelines. Teams win the match by scoring a victory in three of the five events.

Long Reach Coach Chris Barber, who said he will resign at the end of the season, added Duong's protest was "the last resort and I didn't feel the lineup rules were being enforced." Long Reach protested Thursday's opening ceremony by refusing to take the court along with the other teams during the national anthem.

Disney said he will meet with Barber and Principal Edmund Evans on Monday.

"This matter will be taken very seriously and the coach will be held accountable," said Disney, adding this marked just the second time in the past 20 years a coach or athlete walked off the court in protest. "That kind of conduct is detrimental to high school athletics."