New format could be doubly good, but offers some few opportunities
Bayside Conference tennis matches prior to this season consisted of five singles and two doubles matches — a total of nine players on the boys’ side, and nine for the girls.
Once the regular season and conference championships were completed, teams pieced together their eightplayer district tournament squads. Choosing largely from their singles ladders, two singles players were selected — one boy, one girl — and three doubles teams — a boys’, girls’ and mixed team — most of which had little experience playing together competitively during the season.
That has changed though this spring, when District VIII — which includes all the Bayside schools — decided to go with a three-doubles, foursingles format, where singles players can also play doubles.
“There’s actually several reasons for the new format,” North Caroline boys’ head coach and District VIII chairman Dennis White said. “Some of our smaller schools that were starting to have issues with forfeits, and just not being able to field a full lineup, were very much interested in it.
“Another big reason was the fact that we typically send four boys and four girls from each school to districts,” White continued. “Since you send your top four, they were players who had played singles all year long, and when you sent them to districts, three out of the four of them played doubles. So you were sending people who had no experience in doubles.”
Though the Bayside Conference has won 15 state doubles titles since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association began the tournament play in 1975 — four boys, five girls, six mixed — to eight singles championships — six boys, two girls — its been 14 years since Bayside players last won at states, when Cambridge-South Dorchester’s Brendan Kincaid and Yusuf Shariff won the boys’ doubles title.
There have been a few near misses. Easton’s Katie Claggett and Nora Jacobson advanced to the state final in girls’ doubles in 2013, and Cambridge-SD’s Tyler North and Emily McWilliams reached the mixed doubles final in 2011. Still, over the past two seasons the Bayside has gone a collective 3-12 in doubles play at states.
“I really think I’m going to need to get to districts before I can really give a strong opinion,” said White of the new format. “Me personally, I hated sending kids who had played singles all year and then sending them to districts to play doubles. It would be like taking the softball team and saying, ‘OK, now we’re going to play baseball.’ I just felt like it wasn’t fair for me to do that to my team.
“When I looked at the districts and I looked at the doubles matches I didn’t feel like we were giving our kids the best chance to compete because we threw them into something new once we got to districts,” White continued. “So that’s what I’m really looking forward to, to see if that has any impact.”
Kent Island girls’ head coach Rick Tyng gave the new format mixed reviews, but like White noted the biggest positive is giving players a chance to play doubles during the regular season.
“I do like the fact that people like Kylie (Yesker) and Abby (Carpenter) who would never normally get a chance to play any doubles will get some exposure to it during
Two-time defending District VIII girls’ singles champion Catrina Coyner looks to lead Kent Island to a second straight Bayside Conference title this spring.