Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ben Johns title caps tennis year for Bullis

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The Bullis boys tennis team won its third consecutive season-ending Ben Johns tournament Friday at Episcopal, sweeping all seven courts on finals day. It was the first time Bullis has ever won all seven brackets, and the first time in recent memory any team has accomplished that feat.

The win capped off a virtually perfect season during which the Bulldogs established themselves as the best team in the Mid-Atlantic area and the third-best team in the country. They finished third at the National High School Coaches Association Tennis Invitational high-school national championships in April.

‘‘Going into the Ben Johns, it was very important to the team to win,” 17-year Bullis coach Jack Schore said. ‘‘They know what winning this tournament signifies. The school hangs the banner in the gymnasium. It’s part of a legacy and they wanted to keep it going. I think that was kind of the final statement for what’s been a perfect season.”

Schore knew from the start of 2007 he had a uniquely talented bunch. From top to bottom, it’s the deepest squad in the area, with his Nos. 9 and 10 likely capable of playing No.1 singles at many schools in the county.

Schore had high expectations for his charges, but didn’t want to overestimate their capabilities. He was very quickly assured of just how strong his team was. The Bulldogs finished fourth out of the country’s top 16 teams at the Corona del Mar Invitational in California in March, and followed that up with a first-place finish at the Eastern Regional Championships in New Jersey in April. That win qualified it for the nationals.

‘‘You never think your teams is going to be this good,” Schore said. ‘‘You always wonder about injuries, illness, the kids staying interested.”

Senior No. 1 singles player Will Beck, set to play at the University of Kentucky next year, improved his season record to 36-3 with Friday’s title. Junior Chris Seckman won at No. 2 singles, senior Casey Fashouer at No. 3 and freshman Taylor Hairston at No. 4. Brian Lee and Alvin Fludd picked up the No.1 doubles title. Doug Silverstein, who has lost only three matches in three years, and Andrew Zutz, who will play at Notre Dame next year, won at No. 2 doubles. Chris Latham and Andrew Jackson won at No. 3 doubles.

Bullis (12-0) will graduate seven players from this year’s historic squad. But it will return a solid core, including Seckman, Hairston and Fludd. And it will welcome some talent from this year’s 12-1 junior varsity team.

The Bulldogs surprised everyone by winning their first Interstate Athletic Conference and Ben Johns tournament titles in 2005. Now they are the target on everyone’s schedule. But Bullis is keen on maintaining its success next year.

‘‘We have a nucleus of a team returning,” Schore said. ‘‘We’ll have a very young team. We have the Nos. 11 and 12 guy from this year, and they’re good. And we’ll have some kids coming up from junior varsity and eighth grade. I think we’ll still be very good.”