Both individual champs from 2011 – Patch’s Ajdin Tahirovic and Ramstein’s Meghan Augsburger – return to this season’s European high school tennis championships, but according to the seeding chart, this year’s story mostly will be about the Patch Panthers.
Walter Fritz’s Panthers earned the No. 1 seed in three of the four categores on the line Thursday through Saturday on indoor courts in the Wiesbaden area. The Panthers still are led by two-time defending champion Tahirovic, a junior, but have added newcomers Eugenia Srodowski, the girls’ top seed who, like her teammate Tahirovic, has not dropped a set in No. 1 singles matches this season, and freshman Marina Fortun, who teams with Christine Young as the unbeaten No. 1 girls’ doubles tandem.
Newfound strength doesn’t end there for Patch. Freshman Alex Srodwoski, along with partner Dylan Rehwaldt, is seeded No. 4 in boys’ doubles.
Both Srowdowskis, home-schooled students in their first seasons on the team, are looking forward to Europeans.
“We’ll have a great time,” predicted Eugenia by telephone last week when asked about her upcoming first-time experience.
Although the Srodowskis have been in the Stuttgart area for years, this is the first season the schedule has allowed them to be part of the Patch team. In the past, conflicts between club tennis and other commitments have made being Panthers impossible, a situation Alex Srodowski is delighted to see changed.
“Being on the tennis team (at Patch) is much better than club tennis,” he said. “The club doesn’t let us play against the best competition. They save that for the German players.”
Both Srodowskis get plenty of competition at Patch practices, however. Eugenia has found her toughest competition so far in ranking matches against the youthful Fortun, who came to Germany from Panama, and Alex gets to test his game against Tahirovic on a regular basis. Both Srodowskis have been coached for several years by Tahirovic’s father.
With that kind of power at the top, execution alone appears to be the only impediment to the Panthers’ supplanting rebuilding International School of Brussels as the Division I team champ.
ISB, which won both doubles titles in 2011, is seeded sixth in boys’ singles and doubles and Nos. 3 and 7, respectively in girls’ doubles and singles. Ramstein, last year’s runner-up, is led by defending girls’ champ Augsburger, No. 4 this year, and the second-seeded boys’ doubles team of Aryan Von Eicken and Lee DeBose. SHAPE, which dropped from D-I to D-II this year, appears to be the class of the mid-sized schools. The Spartans return 2011 European silver medalist Dimitrios Stavropoulos, seeded No. 2 after an unbeaten 2012 season in which he won every set he played.
“His serve has gotten bigger,” SHAPE coach Sam Ochinang wrote in an email about his sophomore, who has lost a total of just four games this year and who took seven games from Tahirovic in last year’s final. “He has a much better chance of winning in Wiesbaden.”
Bolstering SHAPE’s shot are its unbeaten doubles team of Aaron Yip and Fragkiskos Frantzis, seeded No. 3, and newcomer Carmen Zarco, seed fifth, just behind Augsburger.
Other than the SHAPE quartet, just four other D-II schools earned one seed each -- AFNORTH (No. 2 Alexandria Bella), Naples (No. 4 Conor Skelton), Hohenfels (No. 5 Caroline Bourgeois) and Vicenza (No. 8 Kate Panian).
No Division III player earned any kind of seed, although Alconbury, whose boys’ downed Lakenheath of D-I last week 7-2, figures to be the front-runner.
In the far-flung world of D-III, however, nothing’s cut-and-dried.
“With D-III, you never know,” wrote Alconbury coach Ron Behr in an email, “since we don’t get to see many of the D-III teams during regular-season play. It can also depend on whom the Division III players meet in their brackets… I wouldn’t count any team out.”
Play begins each day at 8:30 a.m. at each venue, with Saturday’s title matches scheduled for the Vitis Tennis and Squash Center in Wiesbaden-Norstadt. There is no admission charge.