Lions, War­riors may lock horns for ti­tle

Kight, Witt, Martin, Thomas and Downes on sin­gles lad­der; Mor­ris, Lutz open at No. 1 dou­bles

Record Observer - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­

Maybe Shel Gun­ther is try­ing to move the bull’s eye to an­other tar­get, or maybe he’s just telling it like it is.

“Eas­ton looks to be the team to beat,” Queen Anne’s County High’s long­time boys’ head ten­nis coach wrote in an email siz­ing up the North Bay­side com­pe­ti­tion. “They had a very good team last year and most of their squad is back with a good fresh­man class com­ing in.”

While War­riors head coach Dick Kemp won’t go as far as agree­ing with the team- to- beat tag, he’s not wav­ing off Gun­ther’s as­sess­ment ei­ther.

“I feel like I have one of the best boys’ teams I’ve ever had,” Kemp said.

With North Bay­side run­nerup North Caro­line grad­u­at­ing its en­tire sin­gles lad­der from last sea­son’s 15- 3 team, Queen Anne’s and Eas­ton could eas­ily turn this year’s bat­tle for the divi­sion crown into a two- team race.

The Lions grad­u­ated their No. 1 sin­gles player from a year ago, Grant Witt, as well as Michael Her­sh­berger. Also gone is the top dou­bles team of David Grze­sik and Tay­lor Moore, who ac­counted for one of Queen Anne’s two wins in last year’s 5- 2 loss to James M. Ben­nett in the Bay­side Con­fer­ence ti­tle match.

“Los­ing five starters stings,” Gun­ther wrote in the email. “Hope­fully our un­der­class­men can fill those voids.”

Vet­er­ans Rob­bie Kight, Blake Witt and Parker Martin give Queen Anne’s a solid 1- 2- 3 com­bi­na­tion at the top of the sin­gles lad­der. Austin Thomas — part of the Lions’ other dou­bles win at Bay­sides last year — set­tles in at No. 4, while Alex Downes moves into the fifth spot. Tan­ner Mor­ris and Matt Lutz opened the year at No. 1 dou­bles and hope to have Queen Anne’s chal­leng­ing for its sixth divi­sion cham­pi­onship in nine years.

If Eas­ton reaches its po­ten­tial, Kemp could have the War­riors look­ing at their first boys’ divi­sion ti­tle since 1983, and pos­si­bly their first con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship since 1982.

“We beat James Ben­nett (in

pre­sea­son) and the four matches we won, we won eas­ily,” Kemp said. “And we could have won two of the three we lost. They (Ben­nett) haven’t lost in four years or so. That was very en­cour­ag­ing.”

Fresh­man Lu­cas Joshi, who bat­tled Kent Is­land’s Kyle Alle­walt to a tiebreaker in last Mon­day’s sea­son-opener, is at No. 1 for Eas­ton. Se­nior Devin Wil­liams moves from No. 4 to 2, while the rest of the sin­gles lad­der has ju­nior Luca Tondin at 3, and fresh­men Ai­dan Stein­ley and Alex Matsche at 4 and 5, re­spec­tively.

Eas­ton’s dou­bles teams of Xavier Rahim and Sean Wil­son, and No. 2 Chris­tian Startt and Brian Me­jai, won their open­ers, and fig­ure to of­fer fur­ther mus­cle.

“With the boys I feel I’m stronger at ev­ery po­si­tion than last year,” Kemp said. “I’ll be dis­ap­pointed if we’re not (one of the best teams).”

The de­ci­sion of James M. Ben­nett’s Matt Ryan — the Bay­side’s three-time de­fend­ing boys’ sin­gles cham­pion — might boost the ti­tle chances of Queen Anne’s, Eas­ton, and Kent County’s Ryan Sant­myer.

Sant­myer, who won his first 18 matches last year be­fore fall­ing to Ryan in straight sets in the con­fer­ence fi­nal, looks to again be the top player in the North. The sopho­more strength­ened his game dur­ing the off­sea­son, play­ing in United States Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion Tour­na­ments and prac­tic­ing three days a week at an in­door fa­cil­ity in Elk­ton.

Sant­myer and se­nior James Ci­ganek — 11-4 last sea­son at No. 2 — could give the Tro­jans one of the Bay­side’s bet­ter onetwo punches. If Kent County is to be a se­ri­ous con­tender for a team ti­tle though, head coach Cassie Swayze will need solid pro­duc­tion from the rest of her lineup. Se­nior Chris Hostetler moves from 5 to 3 in sin­gles, while Andrew Carr and R.J. Ball are at the 4 and 5, re­spec­tively, af­ter play­ing dou­bles a year ago. Kent is young at dou­bles, where sopho­mores Gabe Warner and Johnathan Camp­bell are pro­jected at No. 1, and sopho­more Zachary Sher­man and fresh­man Nolan Lind­sey at No. 2.

Here’s a look at the rest of this year’s lo­cal teams:

Kent Is­land Alle­walt, who went 10-7, placed fourth at dis­tricts and earned Al­lMid-Shore first-team hon­ors a year ago as a fresh­man, re­turns to the No. 1 spot.

“His serve is bet­ter and he’s stronger,” head coach Pete Ben­del said of Alle­walt.

Sopho­more Con­nor Ab­planalp is at No. 2, while the rest of the lad­der is filled by seniors Evan Tyler, Reed Blaber and Con­nor Ruddo.

“It’s the same thing ev­ery year,” Ben­del said. “Guys who play football or soc­cer in the fall, they’re look­ing for some­thing to do in the spring and they de­cide to try ten­nis. Then they find out they like it.”

The Bucs will have Pre­ston Wilder and Jack Franklin at No. 1 dou­bles, and Tyler Mid­dle­ton and Ben Schre­con­gost at No. 2. Ben­del said Ed­die Biven could also see time at dou­bles.

Saints Peter and Paul The Sabres move from the East­ern Shore In­de­pen­dent Ath­letic Con­fer­ence to the Mary­land In­ter­scholas­tic Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion C Con­fer­ence this sea­son. That shift will have Saints Peter and Paul play­ing two for­mats: three sin­gles and two dou­bles matches in con­fer­ence, com­pared to the familiar five-sin­gles, two-dou­bles set-up out­side of con­fer­ence.

Sopho­mores man four of the five sin­gles spots, with Wil­liam Rath and Michael Mor­rell at 1 and 2, and Aaron Prince and Max Hardesty at 4 and 5. Se­nior Bran­don Wass is at three.

“I think we’re com­ing along,” head coach Tom White said. “The three sin­gles guys will do fairly well I think. Dou­bles is a work in progress.”

Adam Leis­ter (Jr.) and Dy­lan Christo­pher­son (So.) will be at No. 2 dou­bles in non-con­fer­ence play.

Gun­ston Se­nior David Rogers, who crewed last year, has im­pressed head coach Diane John­son at No. 1. Tyler Judd, Nat Vi­vian, Steve Goss and Wil­liam Jaing fill out the sin­gles lad­der. Fresh­men Henry Shindler and Malachi Gra­ham are the No. 1 dou­bles com­bi­na­tion, while class­mates Brooks Arm­strong and Dy­lan Shreve are at No. 2.

“We’re young but ex­tremely ath­letic,” John­son said.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@star­


Colonel Richard­son’s Gabby Galante slides around the tag of Queen Anne’s catcher Gra­cie Ray to give the Colonels a 6-5 lead in the sixth in­ning last Thurs­day af­ter­noon.


Blake Witt will move up to No. 2 sin­gles this sea­son for the Queen Anne’s County High boys’ ten­nis team.

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