Conference 21 tennis championships
Jack McLister (LC) def. Khiem Nguyen (PV), 6-2, 6-0
Dominique Huynh (D) def. Alexa Kling (LC), 6-4, 6-0
Jack McLister / Bill Bouweiri (LC) def. Jake Cole / Slade Dumas (D), 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
Dominique Huynh / Melissa Liu (D) def. Alexa Kling / Abbey Marble (LC), 6-1, 3-6, 7-5
|Loudoun County High School swept the team, singles and doubles competitions at the 4A Conference 21 boys' tennis tournament. Doubles champions Jack McLister, left, and Bill Bouweiri pose with Raider coach Randy Hanger.--Times-Mirror Photo/Jason S. Rufner|
"The first ever conference champion!" said Loudoun County High School boys' tennis coach Randy Hanger, extending his hand to Jack McLister as the Raider junior exited the tennis court. "Congratulations."
In this first spring under the Virginia High School League's new conference-based system, McLister became Conference 21's first individual title-holder May 21 at Park View High School. Playing on his opponent's home court, the undefeated McLister got past Khiem Nguyen (14-4) in straight sets.
"He's a great player, but I played really well," said McLister, who relied on a powerful forehand aimed at Nguyen's backhand to put points away. "It's been my goal all season to be undefeated and keep moving on toward states."
McLister then teamed up with senior Bill Bouweiri to take the doubles final. Neither Raider has been beaten yet this season, separately or together.
One court over, Dominion's junior left-hander Dominique Huynh (19-3) followed McLister's lead, winning Conference 21's girls' singles championship before pairing with Melissa Liu to claim the doubles match.
Her singles affair was against Alexa Kling (12-2), who returned from injury in time for the eight-player conference tourney.
"I'm shocked, honestly," said Huynh, whose backhand stroke was particularly effective in placing shots down the lines. "I'm glad I was successful in moving her around, which helped me tie her down."
The doubles matches were completed May 22 at Park View, having been suspended the previous day by rain and lightning when both were tied 1-1. The boys finished their duel about five minutes after its resumption; the girls endured a hard-fought hour-long third set to decide things.
For both County's boys and Dominion's girls, the individual crowns came on the heels of winning the conference's team titles. The Raiders and Titans will be among the eight teams in the three-day 4A North regional team tournaments opening May 26 at high-seed sites.
All singles and doubles participants in Conference 21 championship matches earn berths in the 4A North individual tournaments starting June 2 in Winchester.
County boys' power display
In the Raider boys' tennis season, their No. 1, McLister, is 19-0. So is their No. 2, Bouweiri. Combining for doubles, as they've done since the start of last year, they are also 19-0.
For this, their last postseason sharing a court, the two friends have sights aimed high.
"We're going for the state title. This [conference tourney] was kind of like a quarterfinal for us," Bouweiri said. "It's important in doubles to know that you can rely on each other, and we know we can do that."
Hanger compliments his hard-hitting tandem on their habit of aggressive play, driving to the net to score points quickly with authoritative strikes.
"We're always preaching aggression. Getting to the net is key," said Hanger, who feels that McLister and Bouweiri are arguably the top two tennis players in Conference 21.
Teamwise, Hanger anticipates the competition to stiffen when regions set in. The Raiders (18-1) rely on Brad Henchberger, a No. 3 who could be No. 1 for many schools, and a pair of sophomores in Justin Fox and Nick Ponticelli.
"This is one of the best balanced teams I've ever coached," County's veteran coach said. He noted that Handley and E.C. Glass figure to be in contention for the 4A North team championship.
It was a pair from Handley who knocked Bouweiri and McLister out of last year's doubles tourney, coming back against the Raider duo in the semifinals.
"This year we intend to get our revenge," Bouweiri said.
Surprising season for Dominion girls
Holly Flynn, coach of the Titan girls' tennis squad, didn't expect to be making plans for the regional tournament this spring.
Coming off an off-season in which Liu and Huynh were her only returning players from a roster of 12, Flynn was looking forward to bringing a new crop into the fold. Instead, she found herself coaching a conference winner with a 16-3 team record.
"It became everyone helping each other," said Flynn, who is coaching several players - including some starters - with no match experience before this spring. "We were fortunate to get some eager, coachable kids. It's been one of those seasons you don't forget. It's been a blast."
Not that the cupboard was entirely bare. The doubles combo of Huynh and Liu has lost just twice in 19 matches this campaign, and Huynh is a prospective college player who has made regions in singles each of her first two years.
Nonetheless, any further achievements for the Titans this spring would be extra icing on the cake.
"The next tournament will come down to coaching on each individual court," Flynn said. "We're beyond our expectations already, so it's hard to say what they are for the rest of the season."