(March 29, 2019) The Worcester Prep boys’ and girls’ tennis teams both went undefeated in 2018 and swept the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference championship tournament singles and doubles competitions. Both squads have a good chance to be just as successful this year with the talent each group has.
Ten of the 16 girls on Coach Cyndee Hudson’s roster competed last season, when the team went 16-0.
Junior Annika Larsen is a two-time ESIAC singles champion. With those victories, she was named Conference Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018.
She will be playing in the second singles position this season.
“I’m extremely excited. I really like tennis, [but] I don’t get to play a lot throughout the year because I do other activities,” Larsen said. “I’d like to be undefeated. I tried last year and I was close. I lost only two times, and hopefully making my way back to the ESIAC [championship finals].”
Larsen said she will use her experience to help the underclassmen learn the game and improve their skills, as well provide moral support and cheer them on.
“We all kind of give each other tips and advice,” she said. “A lot of new people tried out this year. We have to teach them a lot of rules and general stuff, because a lot of them haven’t played a ton, but are already getting better.”
Juniors Saylar McGuiness and Mesa Cammack are two-time ESIAC doubles champions. This will be their third season as doubles partners.
They received All-ESIAC honors last season, along with Larsen and Abi Plylar.
Plylar, a junior, will play first singles for Worcester. Sophomore Summer Walker also returns and will take the court at No. 4 singles.
Freshman Sumira Sehgal is new to the team and will compete in the third singles spot.
Maya Natesan is the only senior on the team. She will play fifth singles.
A member of the team since she was a freshman, Natesan said as a captain she plans to get everyone pumped up for the matches, and to always have a positive attitude.
“It’s all about having a good mindset when playing,” she said. “Everyone is getting excited with matches coming up, and I think that’s just motivating us to improve.
“I’m looking forward to the season,” she continued. “It’s been a great time. Ms. Hudson and Ms. [Debbie] Speier have been incredible coaches throughout the four years I’ve been playing, and I wouldn’t have become a tennis player without them.”
Hudson, now in her 19th season coaching the girls, said many of the players have been in starting spots for several years.
“Our strength is definitely in their experience. A number of girls this is their third year in starting positions,” she said. “The girls are eager and they want to improve and learn, but in game situations they’re already experienced.”
Hudson said the new players are improving their skills and adjusting to the team nicely.
The goals, Hudson said, are to be competitive in every match and continue to improve as the season goes on. The Lady Mallards are also shooting for another ESIAC title.
Coach Terry Underkoffler has 16 players on his roster this year. Fourteen of them competed in 2018, when the team went 12-0.
“We have a lot of depth,” Underkoffler, who has led the boys’ team for five seasons, said. “We’re good all-around. We have a good balance with singles and doubles. I really don’t see a weakness.”
The team also has strong senior leadership, he said, as just about all have been playing for Worcester for four years.
Senior Dominic Anthony captured the ESIAC singles title last year and was named Player of the Year. He and senior Will Todd, who was runner-up, will again battle for the No. 1 position on the court this season.
Both are captains and have been on the team since they were freshmen. They will use their experience to lead the group and help the younger players.
“We have a lot of freshmen on our team and what’s going to be key is keeping a level head in a match. That’s something I’ve learned from coach,” Anthony said. “I think we’re coming along really well. I think this is one of the strongest teams we’ve had.
“I want to thank Coach Underkoffler and [Assistant] Coach [Tim McMullen]. They’ve really helped me grow throughout my tennis years,” he added.
Todd also thinks the players are doing well so far.
“I think, with my experience on the team, I should be able to guide some of the younger players and hopefully lead the team to a successful year,” he said. “I think we’re looking really good this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had another undefeated year.”
Anthony and Todd will play first or second singles, and senior Graham Hammond, also a captain, will be in the No. 3 spot.
Sophomores Ryan Brafman and Ben Brandt were doubles teammates last year. They will play fourth and fifth singles, respectively, this season.
Senior captain Colin Miller will team up for doubles competition with senior Cameron Hill. Miller won the ESIAC double title in 2018 playing with his brother, Brendan, who graduated.
Anthony, Todd, Miller, Hammond and Hill received All-ESIAC honors for their performance during the 2018 season.
Underkoffler said his four captains are good role models for the younger players and they work hard. They also conduct themselves exemplary off the court.
Junior Frank Carter and sophomore Joe Schwartz will take the court as second doubles.
Underkoffler said the goals are to improve throughout the season, which should be easy because they are playing against strong competition during practice.
Worcester opened its season on Wednesday against the Indian River Indians in Ocean Pines. All home matches will be played in Ocean Pines this season.
The Lady Mallards won 6-1.
Plylar shut out her first singles opponent, 8-0. Sehgal (8-3), Walker (8-3) and Natesan (8-0) scored victories at third through fifth singles, respectively.
McGuiness and Cammack shut out their first doubles competition, 8-0. Indian River forfeited the second doubles match.
“It was a great match to start out the season,” Hudson said.
It was a chance to get the kinks out and for the new players to see how a tennis competition runs, she added.
The boys’ team also won 6-1. Several Mallards trailed during their matches, but battled back and were successful.
“They adjusted and played their game,” Underkoffler said. “They were resilient. Overall, I was very pleased with how the guys adapted.”
Anthony (8-1), Todd (8-0) and Hammond (8-6) earned victories at first through third singles, respectively.
Hammond was trailing 2-5, but prevailed. Schwartz also came from behind to win 8-5 at fifth singles.
Trailing 3-4, Miller and senior Parker Brandt battled back and took the next four games to win 8-4 at first doubles.
Carter and senior Alex Canakis outscored their second doubles opponent, 8-3.