Patch loaded for a run at tennis titles
Ajdin Tahirovic returns a ball from SHAPE's Dimitrios Stavropoulos in his 6-4, 6-3 victory in the boys single match at last year's DODDS-Europe tennis championships in Wiesbaden. He will be back this season, trying to make it three titles in a row.
When the high school tennis seasons opens in earnest Friday at RAF Alconbury, look for more of the same, at least in singles.
Patch junior Ajdin Tahirovic will be chasing his third straight European boys’ singles title, and Ramstein senior Meghan Augsburger her second. Both returning champs are legitimate contenders, and toughened by tournament success.
Ramstein’s Augsburger passed a significant test in earning her 2011 title, prevailing in three sets over graduated Marymount star Genievra Bolla, a multiple European champ. Tahirovic won in straight sets over SHAPE freshman Dimitrios Stavroupoulos.
Tahirovic continued building his game with a summer on the European junior circuit.
“He has won almost every tournament he entered,” emailed Patch coach Walter Fritz about his Bosnian-born star, who added that his Panthers, who tied Heidelberg for the Division I bronze medal last fall, have added talent to supplement Tahirovic’s expected production.
“We also have three new stars who have played in German tournaments and have won,” he wrote. The three are his No. 1 girl, Eugenia Srodowski; her brother Alex, a freshman who’s No. 2 in singles behind Tahirovic and will team with returnee Dylan Rehwaldt to play No. 1 doubles, and freshman Marina Fortun, who’ll team with the former No. 1, Christine Young, for No. 1 doubles.
“This is the strongest team I have ever had at Patch,” Fritz concluded. “If everyone stays healthy and keeps their grades up we should have a wonderful European tournament.”
If they do, it will be at the expense of International School of Brussels, which edged Ramstein 38-35 for the 2011 team title.
Team scores at the European finals are combined from male and female players, which effectively doubles the graduation losses for the defending big-schools champs. None of ISB’s points-winners are back this fall, leaving the title defense in the hands of 14 freshmen and sophomores and seven junior girls, according to coach Bernard Deconinck.
Heidelberg, the smallest D-I school, returns bronze-medalist Cameron Meeker and No. 1 Bunty Drewitt for Justin Bates’ first season at the helm and the school’s last in the sport, while K-town and Wiesbaden usually serve up plenty of competition.
SHAPE, which played Division I last year, is an emerging power in Division II. Sam Ochinang’s Spartans are led by their Greek star, sophomore Stavropoulos, the 2011 silver medalist. He’s not, however, SHAPE’s only contender.
“Our No. 2 player, Aaron Yip, should be a contender,” Ochinange emailed. “We also have a new female player, Carmen Zarco, from Spain whom I expect to do well in Wiesbaden.”
Helping SHAPE in its quest is the departure from the DODDS-Europe sports scene of the American School of Milan, the D-II co-champions with the American Overseas School of Rome in 2011.
Most of the rest of the top D-II finishers are rebuilding, their coaches report.
First-year coach D.C. McDonald of 2011 bronze-medalist AFNORTH is hanging his hat on two returning qualifiers, Emily Young and Hope Bonenclark, and promising freshmen Alexandria Bellas and Luke Bonenclark.
Hohenfels returns just senior Caroline Bourgeois from its No. 4 finishers, while Aviano and Bitburg report large doses of inexperience.
With Marymount and AOSR just now forming their teams, Naples might well be the class of Italy. The Wildcats will coalesce around Conor Skelton, a recent victor in an international tournament in Brussels, according to coach Robert Patulak, and Alyssa Bracken.
In Division III, defending champ Alconbury, too, is retooling, as are runner-up Brussels and divisional newcomer Baumholder.
Baumholder got a taste of the rebuilding blues on Tuesday, when they were blanked by Kaiserslautern of D-I in a Region II opener that got the jump on all other schools.
Regional play continues until the European tournament once again scheduled for Wiesbaden. This year’s tourney is scheduled for Oct. 25-27 on indoor courts, with the finals to be played at the Tenniszentrum Vitis in the suburb of Nordenstadt.