Springbrook High School senior Maria Hawkins hoped to conclude her girls tennis career with an invitation to May’s state championship meet after coming up short in years past.
Through a straight sets victory against top-seeded Anna Rozenberg of Bethesda-Chevy Chase during semifinal play at last week’s Region II tournament, Hawkins did just that and even a hard-fought loss to Richard Montgomery’s Thea Postolache in Friday’s region final could not damper her spirits.
“I feel really proud to have gotten this far,” said Hawkins, who compiled an 11-1 regular season record. “There are a lot of tough competitors out there. It’s definitely gratifying to make it to this point in my last year, especially when my other years weren’t quite as successful.
“This is definitely the cherry on top my senior year. I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t have had a better season. This is definitely my best year. Everybody’s getting better and so am I, so to be able to keep up with everybody here is an honor.”
Hawkins began her run to the Region II final with a 6-2, 6-0, quarterfinal win against Montgomery Blair’s Leslie Chen. She then upset Rozenberg, 6-3, 6-4, despite playing one of the county’s best competitors in tough weather conditions. That victory pushed her into the state meet as the top two players in each region receive an invite.
“She was able to put Anna on a position of defense instead of offense,” Blue Devils coach Ross White said. “She was very controlled in the way she approached it. It’s really gratifying to see her pull through. She’s been playing great tennis. She’s playing about as well as I’ve seen her.
“She’s been really explosive to the ball and she’s really good at getting set. The other thing is her swing plane is really excellent in terms of whether the ball’s either high or low. She’s able to get into position for the strike zone and have her swing level to the target of where the ball is so that’s really been an improvement. And the other is to execute and anticipate what her opponent’s doing and her mental toughness is excellent.”
Hawkins then battled Postolache — who upset Northwest’s Lydia Xiao, the second seed and the Montgomery County champion in the semifinals — for three sets before falling, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. The match took two days to be played because it was suspended with Postolache holding a 5-3 lead in the third set because of darkness.
“She’s a great player,” Postolache said. “She hits the ball very hard and she’s very strong mentally, too. It was a tough match. If you give her an easy ball, she’ll put it away. You have to put the ball deep or she’ll punish you.”
Hawkins, whose brother Peter Hawkins played four years at Springbrook, plans to prepare for the state tournament in the hopes of furthering her dream season.
“I want to continue to get stronger and get tougher mentally,” said Hawkins, who helped the Blue Devils to an 8-3 record this fall.