Shining on the courts
Lackey’s Stith places second at SMAC tournament; Chargers tie for fifth
Since last season the Huntingtown tennis squad has been a team to reckoned with in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
This spring it has continued to live up to that billing.
After rolling to an undefeated regular season title yet again, the Hurricanes clinched their second straight SMAC tennis tournament title on Saturday at North Point High School in Waldorf.
Huntingtown finished with a tournament-best 16 points and had three SMAC champions in boys singles, boys doubles and mixed doubles in the 23rd annual gathering.
Great Mills finished runner-up with 12 points and also won the team sportsmanship award. Leonardtown finished third with seven points. Northern was fourth with five points and Calvert and Lackey tied for fifth with three.
The top six finishers in the tournament automatically qualified for the Region IV tournament, which kicks off with Day 1 action Thursday at North Point and Day 2 Saturday at Annapolis High School. Action is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. both days.
The SMAC tournament opened up May 10 with the round of 32 and was scheduled to continue the next day, but it was postponed due to rain. Action picked up on May 12 with the round of 16 and continued through Friday with the quarterfinal round. The semifinals and the most of the championship matches occurred Saturday with one, girls doubles, finishing Monday.
“That is huge to win the SMAC tournament again. It is a really big accomplishment for our team,” said Huntingtown head coach Rob Martin, while his team hoisted the SMAC trophy. “It speaks volumes of our character and the players returning from last year. We had a lot of success last year and this year’s team wanted to do it again.”
For the fourth straight year, Huntingtown had a boys singles champion as junior unbeaten Kai Tougas repeated as SMAC champion with a hardfought victory over Lackey senior Ron Stith in three sets, 6-1, 5-7, 6-0.
The anticipated singles final was rematch from the regular season where Tougas outlasted Stith, 7-5, 6-3 in that contest. Tougas defeated Adrian Paras of St. Charles in the semifinals, 6-0, 6-4, to get that rematch.
“The pressure was high because everyone was expecting me to win it again,” said Tougas, whose younger brother Taiyo lost to Stith in the quarterfinals in three sets. “I work out about four times a week, so that has helped me out a lot.”
Stith, who took third in the SMAC last season, took another step in finishing runner-up, but just missed his goal of winning the title in his final season.
“I took another step, but I gave up too easy,” said Stith, who beat La Plata’s Joseph Na in the semifinals, 6-0, 6-0. “I was cramping in the second set, but I think mentally I wasn’t there. But I still have regionals.”
Huntingtown’s Sydney Bader and Sam Bethge claimed the mixed doubles title after defeating Kai Green and Sam Damalouji of Calvert in the finals, 6-4, 6-2.
The Hurricanes tandem — both first-year tennis players — upset the Great Mills duo of Lauren Heibel and Jake Weber, the top seed, in the semifinals on Saturday morning, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. The Great Mills pair was undefeated entering the semifinals.
“We work well together, have fun and some inside jokes to keep us going,” Bader said.
Bethge noted that he and Bader improved since beginning of the season.
“We just been taking it one game at a time, we are starting to peak at the right time,” Bethge said. “We both never picked up a racket before this season.”
Martin added, “They are playing well right now. They actually lost to both Calvert and Great Mills during the regular season. They have come a long away and they used those losses as motivation for the tournament.”
Will Bodnar and Kristopher Collins brought home the boys doubles title for Huntingtown with a victory in straight sets over Great Mills’ Matthew Daugherty/ Neil Patel, 6-1, 6-2.
In girls singles, Northern’s Rachel Clark, the seventh seed, won the SMAC title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over topseed Samantha Schwalbe of Leonardtown in the finals, avenging a regular season loss. Clark defeated Huntingtown’s Bailey White in straight sets in the semifinals, 6-2, 6-2.
The Patriots junior had probably her biggest win of the tournament against second-seeded Azuri Hughes of Lackey, coming in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
“Beating Azuri was real big for me because she going to college to play,” said Clark referring to Hughes, who beat her in the regular season.
The girls doubles championship was played on Monday and was a Great Mills doubles clash as sophomores Samantha Chan and Erikah Dozier defeated Rebekah Torgeson and Caitlin McDaniel, 6-0, 6-1.
Chan and Dozier knocked off top-seeded Hannah Kennerly and Allison Ersoy of Huntingtown in the semifinals on Saturday, 6-4, 6-2.
“We finished second in the SMAC tournament last year, so it feels good to get back to the final to face our own team,” said Chan after Saturday’s semifinals.
“We are ready we’ve been working hard and playing with each other since last year,” Dozier said.
Lackey senior Ron Stith finished runner-up in the SMAC tennis tournament on Saturday, falling to Huntingtown’s Kai Tougas in three sets.