In a battle of unbeatens Thursday, River Hill wasted little time setting the tone and settling its nerves.
The Hawks jumped all over host Howard in the early singles matches, creating momentum that they never lost the rest of the day en route to a 5-0 victory for the boys and a 4-1 win for the girls. For River Hill’s No. 1 boys singles player Alex Artazov, who went on to earn an 8-0 win, he took his job going out first very seriously.
“I always try to come out and have fun, but today I was definitely most concerned about the result. I made sure I never lost focus throughout the whole match,” Artazov said. “I feel like there was a mindset for the whole team coming in because of their record, and I really wanted to show how confident I was right from the start.
“I would say that I’m normally a bit fiery, but today was probably even a bit more than usual.”
Artazov, a sophomore, is now 5-0 at singles this spring, dropping only three games in those matches.
Joining Artazov in terms of dominating efforts were the Hawks’ No. 1 and 2 girls singles combination of freshman Adelaide Houston and junior Defne Demirekler, who each took less than 30 minutes to secure 8-0 sweeps of their own.
Houston said she gained confidence in warmups and it carried over.
“You can usually tell in the warm up how the match is going to be in terms of how the opponent serves or spins, and I think after that today I was more confident in myself,” Houston said. “I was able to loosen up and get off to a strong start because I felt good.”
As the day wore on, the matches tightened across the board. But the prevailing theme was that the Hawks answered in the face of adversity more times than not. River Hill coach Kelley Pfefferkorn said she thought having an early cushion allowed her players to play a bit looser.
“As the matches start coming off with wins, it’s huge to be able to go over to those just starting and say that we are in good shape. Suddenly that pressure that they might have been feeling goes away and they don’t feel so tight anymore,” she said. “I definitely think there were a bit more nerves than usual because they all knew the records, so anything that makes them go away quicker is obviously important.”
For the boys, River Hill (7-0) also got tight wins from Aaron Zhao at No. 2 singles (9-8, 10-4), Zach Lee and Ibrahim Khan at No. 1 doubles (8-6) and Jalen Geason and Dhruv Gupta at No. 3 doubles (9-7) to go along with a convincing victory from the No. 2 doubles pair of Jai Khanna and Aaron Liebskind (8-1).
Zhao’s match against Howard’s Niko Bifsas was one of the most thrilling of the day, as he battled back from a 4-1 deficit to force the tie break and eventually prevail. It was even more impressive considering he was a late substitution into the lineup.
“He had to dig himself out a little bit after going down early, but I had total confidence in him,” Pfefferkorn said. “It’s a great example of our depth, and I think it goes back to the preparation we do going all the way back to tryouts of figuring out which players are best in what spots. Even in situations like today, where we have to make a change at the last minute, I feel like we are able to put ourselves in position to still be successful.”
In addition to the victories at singles, the River Hill girls (7-0) also got wins at No. 2 doubles from Riya Patel and Elinor Tu (8-6) and No. 3 doubles from Rebecca Ni and Ella Jiao (9-7).
The lone win of the day for Howard’s girls (6-1) came from its top doubles team of Corinne Chau and Viola Yu (8-6).
Howard coach Charles Boling said that against good teams like River Hill, the margin for error is razor thin.
“There were a lot of games that were going to deuce, so they could have gone either way. But I have to give River Hill credit because they seemed to really put away those shots in the big moments,” he said. “We threw the sink at them today, but River Hill pulled it out almost every time.”
River Hill is back in action on Monday against Wilde Lake, while Howard will face off against Marriotts Ridge.
River Hill 5, Howard 0
No. 1 singles: Alex Artazov, RH def. Andrew Au, Ho (8-0)
No. 2 singles: Aaron Zhao, RH def. Niko Bifsas, Ho (9-8, 10-4)
No. 1 doubles: Zach Lee and Ibrahim Khan, RH def. Richie Pemberton and Alex Brousseau, Ho (8-6)
No. 2 doubles: Jai Khanna and Aaron Liebskind, RH def. Tyson Nguyen and Savvas Bifsas, Ho (8-1)
No. 3 doubles: Jalen Geason and Dhruv Gupta, RH def. Charlie Veihmeyer and Jeff Harvey, Ho (9-7)
River Hill 4, Howard 1
No. 1 singles: Adelaide Houston, RH def. Varsha Kantheli, Ho (8-0)
No. 2 singles: Defne Demirekler, RH def. Akshito Govindoramen, Ho (8-0)
No. 1 doubles: Corinne Chau and Viola Yu, Ho def. Siri Jale and Priyanka Vamulu, RH (8-6)
No. 2 doubles: Riya Patel and Elinor Tu, RH def. Presley Caroland and Marina Kim, Ho (8-6)
No. 3 doubles: Rebecca Ni and Ella Jiao, RH def. Amelia Krieg and Shannon Clifford, Ho (9-7)
OTHER TENNIS SCORES:
Howard 5, Reservoir 0 (Wednesday)
No. 1 singles: Andrew Au, Ho def. Josh Choi, Re (8-2)
No. 2 singles: Niko Bifsas, Ho def. Vikram Battalapalli, Re (8-1)
No. 1 doubles: Alex Brousseau and Richie Pemberton, Ho def. Yari Armand and Edwin Brown, Re (8-6)
No. 2 doubles: Jared Carino and Haider Hussain, Re def. Savsas Bifsas and Niko Bifsas, Ho (8-6)
No. 3 doubles: Charlie Veihmeyer and Jeff Harvey, Ho def. Avneesh Sokhey and Harshil Shah, Re (8-3)
Centennial 4, Atholton 1 (Wednesday)
No. 1 singles: Vijay Jagarapu, C def. Daniel Etcheberrigarary, A (8-0)
No. 2 singles: Jason Lilly, A def. Michael He, C (8-5)
No. 1 doubles: Danny Ho and Ryan Huang, C def. David Szympruch and Steven Tzeng, A (8-3)
No. 2 doubles: Keshav Ganapathy and Tyler H. Lin, C ded. Nicholas Taber and Paul Kim, A (8-3)
No. 3 doubles: Hari Meka and Charlie Lu, C def. Anthony Zhou and Gabriel Schauf, A (8-0)
Howard 3, Reservoir 2 (Wednesday)
No. 1 singles: Alanna Ro, Re def. Varsha Kantheli, Ho (8-1)
No. 2 singles: Grace Tao, Re def. Medha Hegde, Ho (8-1)
No. 1 doubles: Corrine Chau and Viola Yu, Ho def. Kayla Ou and Alyssa Lee, Re (8-1)
No. 2 doubles: Presley Caroland and Marina Kim, Ho def. Karen Yhim and Lexi Lee, Re (8-0)
No. 3 doubles: Shannon Clifford and Amelia Kreig, Ho def. Kaitlyn Ro and Gia Santos, Re (8-3)
Centennial 4, Atholton 1 (Wednesday)
No. 1 singles: Rose Huang, C def. Jessica Zhou, A (8-1)
No. 2 singles: Michelle Fradlin, C def. Rissah Remy, A (8-1)
No. 1 doubles: Alexandra Nguyen and Nikita Patel, A def. Shreya Vallimanalan and Audrey Oaksmith, C (9-8, 13-11)
No. 2 doubles: Sarika Kapadia and Shriya Reddy, C def. Jennifer Chang and Alisa Hira, A (8-2)
No. 3 doubles: Sarah Blackman and Joanna Blackman, C def. Talia Brown and Eulalia Voo, A (8-0)