MIDDLETOWN — As one of the most enduring winning streaks in Frederick County sports history hung in the balance, all eyes were fixated on a tennis court at Middletown High School.
A competitive match between unbeaten No. 3 doubles teams for the Middletown girls and Urbana was nearing its conclusion, and all of the players, coaches and spectators for both teams were hanging on every shot.
Among the nail-biters was Patrick Barber, Middletown’s tennis coach of the past five years.
Under normal circumstances, Barber pays little mind to his No. 3 girls double team. The duo of senior Marilyn Fisher and sophomore Sophie Desler has been so relentlessly effective this season that they typically don’t need much guidance or attention to bring home a victory.
But this occasion was noticeably different, as Barber paced back and forth on the grassy hill above the court.
“I was nervous,” he said.
After the final point was won and Fisher and Desler had secured a 5-7, 6-2, 10-7 victory over Urbana freshmen Diya Rawal and Priya Patel, wrapping up a 3-2 victory for the Middletown girls over Urbana, the rest of the Knights’ tennis family, including the boys team, came onto the court to congratulate them, celebrate and pose for pictures.
The 84-match winning streak for the Urbana girls, dating back to April 2, 2014, was over. The Middletown girls improved to 15-0, while the Hawks fell to 12-1.
“At a preseason dinner, we were saying, ‘You know, Urbana is working on a 70-match winning streak,’” Barber said. “[Coach] A.J. [Stuart] and Coach [Jon] Walton do a great job. That streak is amazing, and Urbana has set the standard in this county for a long time.
“But, at the time, we were thinking. That streak is going to end sometime. Why can’t it be us?”
The tone was set for the Middletown girls by junior Alexa Orlando’s 6-1, 6-2 victory over Abby Min at No. 1 singles.
But Urbana moved in front on victories at No. 2 singles by sophomore Sophie Nielson and at No. 1 doubles by senior Aaliya Husain and junior Jessica Wu.
So, it was up to No. 2 doubles team of senior Tessa Hauser and Eleanor Kaminski and the No. 3 team of Fisher and Desler to buckle down and pull things out for Middletown.
“We have been wondering for a few seasons now: Are we finally here? Are we finally here?” Barber said. “For the girls, we are there. We are finally there.”
In the boys match — also a battle of unbeaten teams — the Urbana boys maintained their dominance with a 5-0 victory over the Knights.
The Hawks improved to 13-0, while the Middletown boys fell to 14-1.
“Middletown is a good team. We knew what we were facing today,” Urbana coach Jon Walton said. “It’s good to have this match near the end of the season.”
The Urbana girls, meanwhile, took the loss as well as they could. Stuart gathered the team after the match and told them how proud she was of them. She also mentioned, “Ok, it’s time to start a new streak.”
Later, she said, “It’s just really cool that all of our kids over the years really bought into the streak and tried to keep it going. It was a great thing for our program. The players got a lot of credit, and it brought a lot of publicity to our program. People that weren’t really aware of Urbana tennis came out to watch us play. A lot of hard work from a lot of people went into that.”
Middletown 3, Urbana 2
Singles—Orlando (M) def. Min, 6-1, 6-2; Nielson (U) def. Miller, 6-2, 6-4. Doubles — Husain-Wu (U) def. Horman-Krishnamoorthy, 7-5, 6-0; Hauser-Kaminski (M) def. Seymour-Hyde, 6-2, 6-2; Fisher-Desler (M) def. Racal-Patel, 5-7, 6-2, 10-7.
Urbana 5, Middletown 0
Singles—Li (U) def. Kirkwood, 6-1, 6-1; Lowery (U) def. Schneider, 6-2, 6-0. Doubles—Lige-Lombardo (U) def. Kaminski-DeMarchi, 6-0, 6-3; Babu-Holson (U) def. Fisher-James, 5-7, 6-3, 10-3; A. Zhu-B. Zhu (U) def. Nair-Nylen, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.