What are the best high school teams in Frederick this winter?
Thanks to the coronavirus, we’ll likely have to wait a little longer to find out. Frederick County public-school sports have been postponed since the beginning of the school year because of the pandemic.
So to help fill the void, The Frederick News-Post thought it would be fun to ask readers to pick the best Frederick County high school teams of all-time in each sport.
Each week, we’ll feature a sport and list contenders from years past in that sport. Readers can visit www.fredericknewspost.com to vote for the team they think is best. We’ll do this for all sports, fall, winter and spring.
Each Thursday, when we list candidates for another sport, we’ll reveal the team from the previous week’s sport that got the most votes.
This week’s sport: Girls tennis. May the best team win.
1971 Walkersville Lions
Accomplishments: District I champion, undefeated in regular season
Many of the teams listed below won the Maxine Murray Trophy, awarded to the Frederick County Tournament team champion.
But the 1971 Walkersville Lions actually played for Maxine Murray, the legendary coach who helped shape them into a winning machine and who eventually had a trophy named after her.
The Lions won their third straight District I title and went unbeaten for the third straight year.
Talking to The Frederick News-Post in 1971, with her team on the verge of completing another undefeated season, Murray said she couldn’t pinpoint why her team was so successful.
“The girls just have a keen sense of competition and they like to play tennis. Maybe it’s the courts,” she said, grinning. “We have the worst courts in the county and everyone said that anyone who plays well on our courts should be able to win.”
Walkersville player Karen Bachtell had a different theory, crediting Murray’s coaching for the team’s winning ways.
In the story that featured those thoughts, it was reported that Walkersville’s Ann Poffenbarger had just won her 20th match without a loss over a two-year period and that the Lions’ Bachtell and Kitty Buza had played three years of singles competition without a loss. While having three winning singles players would be impossible for today’s Frederick County teams, since matches are comprised of two singles and three doubles matches, regular-season matches in 1971 included three singles and two doubles matches.
The Lions (or the Lionesses, as they were called in the newspaper) capped off their season by winning five of seven matches at the District I tournament at Thomas Johnson — the MPSSAA wouldn’t begin holding a state tournament until 1975.
All matches at the districts were singles, and Walkersville got wins from Bachtell, Sue Mainhart, Poffenbarger, Brenda Hedges and Sandy Powell.
1983 Brunswick Railroaders
Accomplishments: Frederick County champion, MVAL champion, 14-0 record
The Brunswick girls tennis team’s run of success during the 1980s relied on athletes who excelled in multiple sports, and they added a freshman in 1983 who continued that trend.
That would be Josette Votipka. She was the No. 2 or No. 3 runner for a Brunswick cross-country team that won three state titles. She also averaged double figures scoring for the school’s basketball team during her junior and senior seasons.
“I don’t have one main sport,” she told The Frederick News-Post.
Forgive those on the opposite side of the net for assuming Votipka’s top sport was tennis.
Earning the No. 1 singles spot as a freshman, Votipka never lost a regular season match in her four-year career. She started that streak by going 14-0 in 1983, a valuable addition to an already-successful Brunswick program.
Lori Daugherty, a hard-hitting senior who had played in the No. 1 spot for two years, went 14-0 at No. 2 singles. She and Votipka met in the Frederick County Tournament girls singles final, the hard-hitting veteran vs. a newcomer who aimed to wear down opponents by keeping the ball in play. Despite some difficulty in the second set, Votipka won 6-1, 6-3 for the first of her four county crowns (the final one came in girls doubles).
Seeing multiple Brunswick shirts on the court deep into county tournaments wasn’t an uncommon sight for Lee Zumbach, who helmed Brunswick’s program along with co-coach Ed Sell.
Blessed with depth, the 1983 Railroaders stocked doubles teams with reliable performers, including Leah Tucker (a former No. 2 singles player who helped win a regional mixed doubles title the previous season), Lori Foltz, Angie Weddle and Christie Goodrich, Beth Koenig and Beth Danner.
Danner and Tucker were second at the county tournament, helping the Railroaders win their third straight Frederick County Tournament team title. Yes, during this era, the county team champion was was determined by combining girls and boys performances. But make no mistake, the Railroaders girls did their part in 1983.
1993 Thomas Johnson Patriots
Accomplishments: Frederick County champion, CMC champion, 14-0 record
With a couple titles on the line at the 1993 Frederick County Tournament, Thomas Johnson coach Jane Ramey refrained from coaching.
It wasn’t dereliction of duty. It was, well, net neutrality.
In both the girls singles and girls doubles championship matches, TJ players stood on both sides of the net battling each other, a testament to the team’s overall strength.
Debbie Dove ended up beating teammate Beth Stefanon for the singles crown, while TJ’s No. 2 team of Jean Gaare and Kate Williams knocked off TJ’s No. 1 team of Johnna Cartwright and Amy DeRosa 6-2, 6-4.
After Dove won the first set, Stefanon retired because of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
“I wanted to play [Dove], but I wish I could’ve played for the whole match,” she said. “I felt lightheaded and my legs seemed to be moving on their own.”
That’s OK. She had already contributed significant points to help TJ win its first Maxine Murray Trophy, given to the team champ, since 1987.
This was the final year the county awarded just one team crown, combining boys and girls points. The following season, TJ won the county girls team title to retain the Maxine Murray Trophy. Boys winners got the Jack Shockey Trophy.
2000 Urbana Hawks
Accomplishments: Frederick County champion, CMC champion, 17-0 record
Anyone who has paid attention to Frederick County tennis over the past six years knows how Urbana had a penchant for going unbeaten and winning county tournament titles.
But the Hawks, under coach Dave Gadra, first did such things during the millennium era. In 2000, the Hawks won their second straight Frederick County Tournament team crown and went unbeaten during the regular season for the second straight season.
Just as in 1999, Urbana’s Cassie Meyer, a left-handed power hitter, won the county girls singles crown. She also won her first regional title and finished with a 23-2 record.
The Hawks were hardly lacking elsewhere in the lineup, either. In fact, they put two teams in the county tournament girls doubles championship. Even more intriguing, that final pitted sisters Nitasha Klar and Amy Klar against each other. Nitasha Klar and Amber McGolerick ended up beating Amy Klar and Amanda Sadtler 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
2008 Linganore Lancers
Accomplishments: Frederick County Champion, MVAL Chesapeake champion, 16-0 record
Aside from possessing essential depth, the 2008 Linganore Lancers also had one of the most successful singles players in Frederick County history.
Linganore’s Katie Schafer capped her stellar career in 2008 by winning the MPSSAA girls singles state crown, beating Eleanor Roosevelt’s Katelyn Stokes 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the final at the University of Maryland. This was back when only one state title was awarded in each bracket, so girls singles players from all four MPSSAA classes competed for the prize that Schafer won.
Schafer was just the second county tennis player, regardless of gender, to win a state crown. The other was Middletown’s Bresha Byrd, who accomplished the feat in 1992. And aside from those two, the only other state champ from the county is Oakdale’s Rani Jones, who won the Class 2A girls singles crown in 2019.
Of course, the Lancers needed more than just an ace No. 1 singles player to go unbeaten. Locked in a grudge match against a strong Middletown team that season, Linganore needed a decisive win from the No. 3 doubles team of Melissa Hoyle and Michelle Huber to pull out the 3-2 win.
“We knew we were going to have a strong battle ahead of us,” said Lancers coach Kathy Becker, who called the match “huge.”
Just like Hoyle and Huber, Linganore’s No. 2 singles player, Allison Scire, the No. 1 doubles team of Ali Colvin and Brittany Starlings and No. 2 doubles team of Christina Gatte and Rachel Tyrer all had records that ranked among county leaders at their respective slots.
2009 Walkersville Lions
Accomplishments: Frederick County champion, MVAL Piedmont co-champion, 13-1
Perhaps it was hard to tell on March 20, 2009, when Walkersville suffered an early season loss to Middletown, but the Lions were in for a stellar season.
After falling 3-2 to the Knights that day, the John Nicodemus-coached Lions never lost again. And they didn’t lose momentum at the Frederick County Tournament, capturing the team crown.
Doubles was undoubtedly a strongpoint. That was evident at the county tournament doubles championship match, where Lions players stood on both side of the net. Walkersville’s Erika Dirk and Rachel Lupinetti ended up beating teammates Brittany Fisher and Melissa Fisher for the title, and the all-Walkersville final helped propel the Lions to the team title.
Lupinetti, Dirk, Melissa Fisher and Brittany Fisher all earned Frederick News-Post all-county first team honors, while Walkersville’s No. 3 doubles team of Carrie Ingram and Pooja Rao got honorable mention.
2016 Urbana Hawks
Accomplishments: Frederick County champion, CMC Spires champion, 15-0 record
In the 2010s, the A.J. Stuart-coached Urbana Hawks forged the latest dynasty in Frederick County girls tennis, winning 84 straight regular-season matches from 2014 to 2019.
While any of the Hawks’ teams during that stretch could’ve been included on this list, the 2016 edition gets the nod. That was the first Urbana team during a dynastic period that was coming off an unbeaten season, meaning there was pressure to duplicate the feat and a target was on the team’s back. Also, the Hawks returned all three of their Frederick News-Post all-county first teamers from the previous season — No. 1 singles player Isabella Miller and No. 1 doubles players Kara Keiper and Amy Shenk — and all three were even more successful.
After placing second at the county tournament the previous season, Keiper and Shenk — seniors — won the county doubles crown.
“Being our senior year, we wanted to go out with a bang,” Shenk told The Frederick News-Post.
Better yet for the Hawks, Keiper and Shenk played teammates Chandler Zink and Gaelin Hirabayashi in the final. As such a intra-team final suggests, the Hawks had capable players throughout their lineup.
As for Miller, a sophomore, she reached the county singles final after placing third the previous season. And the Hawks also had freshman Aaliya Husain, who thrived at No. 2 singles all season. She ended up placing third in singles at the county tournament, earning all-county first-team honors.
With underclassmen like Miller and Husain as well as other contributors, the Hawks remained a force the following season and for years to come, extending a streak that was finally snapped by another team on this list.
2019 Middletown Knights
Accomplishments: CMC Gambrill champion, 18-0 record
This Middletown team didn’t just go undefeated, it ended one of most impressive win streaks by a Frederick County team in any sport.
On May 2, Middletown snapped Urbana’s 84-match regular-season winning streak, which dated to 2014, by pulling out a 3-2 win.
After the historic win, Knights coach Patrick Barber recalled a preseason dinner when the Hawks’ streak was discussed.
“That streak is amazing, and Urbana has set the standard in this county for a long time,” he told The Frederick News-Post. “But, at the time, we were thinking. That streak is going to end sometime. Why can’t it be us?”
Keep in mind, Urbana wasn’t mired in a down year or merely surviving on mystique in 2019. That loss was the only one the Hawks suffered all season, and they were good enough to eventually capture their fourth straight Frederick County tournament team crown.
But Middletown had names high on the county leaders list in all five slots, including Marilyn Fisher and Sophie Desler at No. 3 doubles. That duo ended up getting the decisive win against Urbana.
Middletown’s Alexa Orlando reached the county tournament finals at No. 1 singles, then teamed up with Jack Kaminski to win a regional mixed doubles title. Tessa Hauser and Eleanor Kaminski won the county’s No. 2 doubles crown, and No. 2 singles player Katherine Miller and the No. 2 doubles team of Macy Homan and Rithika Krishnamoorth were also key contributors.