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'Bad luck of the draw'

Hubs' Region I mixed doubles champs, Grahn & Wagner, lose in 1st round at states

May 29, 2010|By DAN KAUFFMAN

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- North Hagerstown's mixed doubles team of senior Andreas Grahn and junior Laura Wagner did everything they could to try and assure their draw in this year's Maryland State Tennis Tournament would be more favorable.

It was what they couldn't control -- namely, the draw itself -- that made it a moot point.

Grahn and Wagner, seeded third, suffered a disappointing 6-0, 6-1 loss to Walter Johnson's William Schmidt and Arielle Hartz in the first round Friday afternoon. It's the second straight year Grahn and Wagner reached the state tournament but were eliminated in their opening match.

"It's disappointing because their goal was to win regions to get a better draw at states, and they achieved that goal," Hubs coach Pete Grunberg said. "They played well enough to get the No. 3 seed, it's just bad luck of the draw."

Clear Spring's mixed doubles team of sophomore Zac O'Neal and junior Megan Crowl also lost in the first round Friday, falling to Patuxent's fourth-seeded Justin Tabor and Cari Hopson, 6-4, 6-0.

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Grahn and Wagner were a surprise state qualifier last year, when they won the Washington County title and finished second at the Region I tournament. Their reward was a first-round match with top-seeded and defending state champions Aaron Hoffman and Sarah Macy of Whitman, who rolled to a 6-0, 6-0 victory on the way to their second state title.

This season, Grahn and Wagner successfully defended their county title and won the Region I crown to earn the third seed for the state tournament.

Their reward was a matchup against Schmidt and Hartz -- who finished second to Whitman's Michael Kader and Christina Davis in a close 6-4, 6-4 battle in the Region II final. Region II consists entirely of talent-rich teams from Montgomery County, and Kader and Davis are the top seed at the state tournament.

"It's one of the best regions in the state," Grunberg said. "I've watched the other mixed doubles out there and Andreas and Laura would definitely have a chance against them, even some of the other region winners."

Four of the eight region winners were given top-four seeds. The other 12 teams were placed in the bracket at random, with the exception that two teams from the same region could not meet until the final.

Kader, a left-hander, used a heavy kick serve and topspin forehand to full effect, and Davis also had power from the baseline. Grahn and Wagner won just four points in the first five games.

"(Kader) had a really good serve that was hard to get to," Grahn said. "We had some good rallies, went to deuce a couple times in the second set, so we played better."

"We didn't play well the first set at all, that gave them even more momentum and they're a good team," Wagner said. "It was a lot of fun coming back (to states), but we came in with higher expectations and it sucks that we're out in the first round again."

O'Neal and Crowl -- who are cousins -- were in the position this year that Grahn and Wagner were last year, as Region I runners-up making their first appearance at states. They gave Tabor and Hopson a battle in the first set before the Patuxent duo took firm control in the second.

"We were both very nervous," Crowl said. "After our nerves went away, we gave it all we had. We got a little tired that second set, and they came ready to play."

Crowl's serve was broken at love in the fourth game of the first set as Tabor and Hopson took a 3-1 lead. O'Neal and Crowl had two break points in the fifth game and one in the seventh game, but could not convert. They did convert on a break point in the ninth game to get back on serve at 5-4, but Tabor and Hopson broke right back on O'Neal's serve to win the set.

"We could have been back in it, but we didn't do it," O'Neal said. "(Tabor) was consistent. He had power and outplayed us. He saw our weaknesses and used his strengths to capitalize."

O'Neal and Crowl won just six points in the second set as Tabor and Hopson raised their game.

"Their opponents started coming on a little stronger," Blazers coach Lisa Shives said. "When you're trying to return a serve that kicks up higher than you are, that's tough."

O'Neal and Crowl have next season to look forward to -- just as Grahn and Wagner looked ahead after last year's state tournament.

"This gives us great motivation," Crowl said. "We're going to work year-round and hopefully grow from this."

"It pays off, having the experience in this atmosphere and seeing this level of play," Shives said. "You have no idea what this level is like until you see it."

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