When freshman Trinetra Vijayakumar was in eighth grade last year, seniors from Mount Hebron visited her middle school to discuss the transition that awaited her and her classmates in the fall. While most students inquired about the lunch menu or navigating a larger school, Vijayakumar’s primary interest was the school’s tennis program.

“I remember asking about the program, and one of the senior girls was like, ‘We do have a tennis team, but we could be better,’ ” Vijayakumar recalled. “In my head I said, ‘I want to be a part of that change.'"

Saturday afternoon at Wilde Lake Tennis Club in Columbia, Vijayakumar did just that as she beat C. Milton Wright freshman Frances Ceballos, 6-1, 6-0, to capture the Maryland 3A individual state championship.

In the girls’ 4A final, Wootton junior Helen Sarikulaya defeated Bowie’s Kenyange Kaounde, 6-1, 6-2, to finish 8-0 this season.

“It feels so great to finally call myself a state champion,” Sarikulaya said. “I came out here and performed really well overall, and that’s always my focus, so I’m extremely happy for myself and our program.”

In the 3A match, Vijayakumar wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her opponent because they hadn’t faced off since a doubles match nearly five years ago.

“I didn’t even try to think back to our last meeting, because obviously so much can change in five years,” Vijayakumar said. “So today, I really just tried to focus on the things that I could control and just be the best version of myself.”

Despite the lopsided score, Saturday’s meeting was the most Vijayakumar had been tested during the state tournament. In fact, she went six matches without dropping a game before losing one during the first set of the final.

Vijayakumar said winning an individual title wasn’t even on her radar. This season she just wanted to be a part of the team and try to help change the program’s narrative.

“All season long, my teammates have been so caring and supportive of me even though we never really got to know each other because of covid,” Vijayakumar said. “So hearing their cheers today and knowing that I helped bring positive attention to our team, means more to me than winning the actual title.”

In doubles, Vanessa Mellynchuk and Alison Bach won the first tennis title in South River history, beating Whitman’s Abigail Chen and Isabella Kaplan in the 4A final.

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