There wasn’t any jumping up and down in excitement. No falling to the court in elation. No fist pump. Barely even a smile.
For Boonsboro freshman Hunter Liao, the Class 1A boys singles championship match at the Wilde Lake Tennis Club was business as usual. And that business is winning.
“That’s just me,” said Liao after he dispatched Liberty’s Honor Zan 6-0, 6-1 in the final to cap a season in which he went 23-0. In his nine postseason matches covering the county, region and state tournaments, he lost just four of his 112 games.
He may not be into celebrating, but Liao — Washington County’s first boys singles state champion since North Hagerstown’s Steve Miguel in 1985 — is satisfied.
“I wanted to win states from the beginning and I accomplished that goal,” he said. “I think I played pretty well in each of my matches and had a good season.”
“It’s been 37 years since (the county has) had a boys singles state champion, so (Liao) coming in with this kind of level talent-wise, it was going to be pretty awesome tennis,” said Boonsboro coach Brian Myers. “The high level of tennis was always there. The difference was when he played some higher-level opponents — North, Middletown, Oakdale in a scrimage — when the competition went up, his level went up as well, and you could see it.”
Liao’s talent was on full display against Zan, who had a big first serve and forehand. But Zan had no answer for the combination of power and accuracy Liao displayed.
“My serve and my forehand was the key,” Liao said.
“He played his game and didn’t let (Zan) get into any rhythm,” Myers said.
Clear Spring seniors Kayda Shives and Andrew Keller — who have been friends for much of their childhood days — capped their prep careers with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Pikesville’s Natasha Kravchenko and Maxwell Suchin for the 1A mixed doubles title.
Shives and Keller arrived at the tennis club at the 11:30 am check-in time and had to wait nearly two hours before starting their title match.
“The first set went a little slower than we wanted just because we had been sitting around,” Keller said. “Obviously nerves played a big factor in that. As the match went on we got more comfortable.”
“This was a huge deal for us, being a small school and having the community out here, Shives said.”
“They came out a little slow and had me worried, but then they started playing the type of tennis I’ve seen all year and I’m just so excited,” said Blazers coach Jason McMillan. “After practice they’re still on the courts. They’re out there before practice starts. They put in so much time, effort and work, they deserve this so much.”
Shives and Keller are the second Clear Spring doubles team to win a state title in the last four years. Madison Jenkins and Paige Seibert claimed the 1A girls doubles crown in 2019.
Each played No. 1 singles during the regular season and in the county tournament — Shives, the 2021 Herald-Mail county player of the year, led all county girls with her 14-2 record, while Keller went 9-6 in boys singles. Each finished second in the county tournament.
“Going into counties they thought they would also play singles in regionals. Then right before I went to submit (the region entries) they came to me and said they want to play together,” McMillan said. “They’re both very strong players. They complemented each other very well, picked each other up when one was down — they had great chemistry.”
Shives and Keller won all six of their mixed doubles matches in the postseason.
“You really can’t describe it,” Keller said. “We’ve been talking about this, and for it to actually happen, to get a (state title) banner and for younger people to look up to that and hopefully think they can do the same thing, it’s amazing.”
“I think this is the most perfect way I could have gone out,” Shives said. “I wouldn’t change it for a second.”
Williamsport sophomore Lauren Toms, who won both county and 1A West Region II titles in match tiebreakers following lengthy and grueling battles, was in another one against Pocomoke’s Marli McDorman in the 1A girls singles final. This one didn’t go her way, as McDorman — who plays a very similar style to Toms — pulled out a 5-7, 6-4, 10-8 decision.
“She is like a wall,” Toms said of McDorman. “She worked hard — we both did. It was almost like who was going to mess up first? It was very tiring, almost a two-hour match, and very tough. It’s a lot on your body.”
No Washington County player has ever won a state girls singles title — meaning Toms (13-5) got as far as any county girl ever has. That’s a remarkable accomplishment considering this was Toms’ first season playing high school tennis, and first time playing tennis at all in three or four years, as she concentrated on soccer.
“It couldn’t have gone any better,” Toms said. “My expectation was just to have fun and get back into the sport I used to love. As soon as I started counties, I was kind of on a roll and I took it more serious — I actually missed a soccer game today for this. I definitely was not expecting to come up here and make it to the finals, so I’m proud of myself.”
“Her toughness cannot be questioned at all. She goes out there each and every time and she gives it everything. We saw that all season,” said Williamsport coach Donald Brown. “She had some really hard-fought wins. She came up a little short in this one, but she has two more years. To see her progression from her first match to where she is now, I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
South Hagerstown’s girls doubles team of senior Mackenzie Fritz and junior Amanda Frushour earned a 6-0, 2-6, 10-4 victory over Great Mills’ Leslie Pope and Katie O’Toole in the 3A quarterfinals, but fell 6-1, 6 -2 to River Hill’s top-seeded Adelaide Houston and Priyanka Ramulu in the semifinals.
“I played singles since I was a freshman. I started there this year, and then we started playing doubles together because we were getting ready for counties and regionals, and I don’t think we ever thought we would make it this far,” said Fritz. “Finishing at states is something I never thought I’d accomplish. It’s the best tennis we’ve ever played, I think.”
Fritz and Frushor finished the season with a 17-2 record, including county and 3A West Region I championships.
“I’ve been a doubles player forever,” Frushour said. “We had to get used to playing with each other, but then it was a great outcome. On the days I’m having a bad day, she picks me up, and vice versa. We just work well together.”
Boonsboro freshman Hunter Liao, Williamsport sophomore Lauren Toms and Clear Spring’s mixed doubles team of Kayda Shives and Andrew Keller will play for the Maryland Class 1A championships on Saturday, weather permitting, at the Wilde Lake Tennis Center.
Liao (22-0) and Toms (13-4) each won Washington County and 1A West Region II championships earlier this month.
On Thursday, Liao defeated top seed Alex Simanovskiy of Pikesville 6-2, 6-0 in the boys quarterfinals and Brandon Nguyen of Harford Tech 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals. He will face Liberty’s Honor Zan in the boys championship match.
Toms (13-4) defeated Casey Reno of South Carroll 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and top seed Elizabeth Nabutovsky of Pikesville 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals. She will face Pocomoke’s Marli McDorman in the girls championship match.
Shives and Keller (5-0), who each played singles in the regular season, remained undefeated in mixed doubles with a 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal victory over Harford Tech’s Zeel Patel and Ethan Luu, and a 6-0, 6 -1 semifinal win over St. Michael’s Carly Gill and Cooper Baum. They will face Pikesville’s Natasha Kravchenko and Maxwell Suchin in the final.
Boonsboro’s boys doubles team of Nick Stotler and Bryan Duft (20-2), the second seed, lost in the quarterfinals to Liberty’s Nikhil Andhavarapu and Arjun Mistry 6-0, 6-0.
Williamsport’s girls doubles team of Chelsea Kreps and Grace Caudell (12-6) lost to top seed Imani Grace and Fiona Williamson of Western Tech 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.