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Dice, Jenkins third at states

May 23, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Sarah Dice and Amanda Jenkins wear their emotions on their sleeves. And since Clear Spring's sensational girls doubles team hates to lose, that made Saturday's Maryland State Tournament semifinals really difficult to swallow.

Coming off an upset victory in the quarterfinals Friday, Dice and Jenkins finally ran into a team that was just a little too tough, as Whitman's Nicole Gottret and Christine Davis won 6-4, 6-0 at University of Maryland-College Park.

"Our personalities are so much alike. We have one thing on our minds, and that's to win," Dice said. "Losing is unacceptable, and when we do, we take it hard."

Their heads didn't hang for long. Dice and Jenkins were back in top form in the third-place match, defeating Dulaney's Erin McShea and Shewta Shukla 6-4, 6-3 to take the bronze.

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That final victory just added to their long list of career accomplishments -- including three Washington County girls doubles titles and the Region 1 championship last weekend, and reaching the state quarterfinals a year ago.

All by two girls who, before their freshman year of high school, had never played competitive tennis before.

"It's been a great feeling, to represent our school," Jenkins said. "We accomplished a lot, just two small-town girls who never took a lesson and played for the first time as freshmen. I would never choose another partner. I'm truly blessed."

"To get this far, to be in the top three in the state, what an accomplishment," Blazers coach Lisa Shives said. "There's nothing to hang their heads about."

In the semifinals, both teams showed early nerves in the first two games of the first set, hitting balls long or into the net. Dice and Jenkins managed to get an early break on Jenkins' forehand down the left alley and led 2-0.

But once Gottret and Davis found their their rhythm on their groundstrokes, they made things very difficult. They got the break back, and it was all Dice and Jenkins could do to keep holding serve -- they fended off seven break points across two service games to keep the first set close at 4-4.

When Gottret and Davis finally broke Dice and Jenkins to take a 5-4 lead, the proverbial snowball started rolling downhill. The Whitman duo won the final seven games (and 30 of 40 points), and were simply too sharp.

"I was extremely impressed," Dice said. "The one girl had an amazing forehand, the other girl had an amazing backhand and they forced us out wide. When they got up, they picked up the intensity and they didn't make any mistakes at all."

"We couldn't get to the net hardly at all," Shives said. "Their groundstrokes were so consistent, so deep. We could get at a shallow one once in a while, but they played great."

Saturday's state tournament action culminated the prep careers of Dice and Jenkins, who both were multi-sport stars.

Dice was a soccer standout, earning Herald-Mail All-Area First Team honors after leading Washington County with 24 goals. She's going to Barton University in Wilson, N.C., on a full scholarship.

Jenkins excelled in volleyball, earning All-Area First Team honors as an outside hitter, averaging 3.76 kills and 3.47 digs.

Who knew that their greatest prep sports accomplishment would come on the hardcourts?

"Back as freshmen, tennis was just something fun. I had volleyball, she had soccer," Jenkins said. "We went to counties that first year and lost in the first round and were just thrilled to be there."

"Each year, singles and doubles, we got better, and this year we really shined," Dice said. "I've played soccer my whole life, but this is the furthest I've made it in any sport."

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