Prep Tennis: Hubs' Ober, Johnson move into mixed doubles final four

May 25, 2012

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — North Hagerstown’s mixed doubles team of Max Ober and Mollie Johnson won first round and quarterfinal matches on Friday to advance to the semifinals at the Maryland State Tennis Tournament at the University of Maryland.

Ober and Johnson (8-0) — who were awarded the third seed out of 16 teams in the mixed doubles bracket after winning Washington County and Region I titles — defeated C. Milton Wright’s Corey Blanton and Becca Piazza 6-3, 6-4 in the first round, then eliminated Bowie’s Alexander Stevenson and Brittany Simmons 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.

Ober and Johnson are the first Washington County tennis athletes to reach the semifinals of the state tournament since Clear Spring’s girls doubles team of Sarah Dice and Amanda Jenkins finished third in 2009. The county’s last state champions were the Hubs’ mixed doubles team of Zach Tran and Kelly Moler in 1993.

“We’re really excited to represent Washington County, and more importantly, represent North Hagerstown,” said Ober.

“We have a lot of confidence, but mostly, we’re just excited to get the chance to play in the final four,” said Johnson, who was a defensive specialist on the Hubs’ Class 3A state championship volleyball team last fall. “We know we need to be confident but we can’t be cocky, either. I remember that from volleyball and that made a huge impact on our team.”

Ober and Johnson will face Huntingtown’s Tyler Collins and Rachel Land — the second seed — in the semifinals today at 10 a.m. The final and third-place match will follow the semifinals.

“(Collins) is extremely strong. He gets to everything,” Ober said. “(Land) is solid but (Collins) takes over the points. It will be a tough match.”

The all-court talents that carried Ober and Johnson to the Region I title — namely, solid net play, aggressive groundstrokes and offensive lobs when needed — were on display again Friday.

Ober and Johnson had to adjust to a new challenge — both Blanton and Stevenson were left-handed — but figured it out without dropping a set. They are 16-1 in sets from the start of the county tournament.

“We faced two tough teams but we both played our best today,” Ober said. “What really worked was just mixing it up and keeping the (opponents) off-balance. It’s kind of like calculus. You just have to adjust to the circumstances in the problem.”

“It hasn’t quite hit me at this moment,” Johnson said. “Basically, we played really hard today and we just really wanted to win. We didn’t break down. We raised our intensity to push through the big points.”

    — Daniel Kauffman

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