Marriotts Ridge tennis teams in familiar spot fighting for first place in Howard County thanks to great team camaraderie – Baltimore Sun

Marriotts Ridge boys and girls tennis teams are accustomed to being at the top of Howard County. The 2022 season is no exception as both Mustang teams are fighting for first place in the county standings with Centennial.

The Mustang boys are 9-0; the girls are 8-1. A pivotal component of that success has been the closeness of both teams, rallying around each other’s successes.

“First and foremost it’s just a great group of players,” Marriotts Ridge coach Scott Dingman said. “They enjoy being at practice everyday, they work hard. Both teams get along great, so for me they just have a really great vibe. That’s a big part of what I’m enjoying about this season. We’ve got a lot of depth on both teams, which allows us in those more difficult matches to be able to come through in the clutch.”

That tight-knit bond and family atmosphere is extra special for Mustangs senior Anna Ottman, a team captain, who gets to play alongside younger sisters Maria and Christina. Anna rotates between multiple roles for the Mustangs, playing both singles and doubles matches. She’s not alone in that, as the Mustangs’ versatility has played an integral role in their success. Other players like captain Hashini Amarasinghe, Amrutha Alibilli, Charita Sandoze and Vinita Badugu have also thrived serving multiple roles.

“We work really well together, both the girls and boys teams. We practice really well together,” Anna Ottman said. “We all play doubles against each other and everyone on the team is very versatile in every position. That helps us a lot against the more competitive teams. We’re able to make the best use out of everyone, but mainly we are just able to have a lot of fun because all of us are competitive.”

A match against River Hill on March 29 served as a pivotal moment for the Mustangs. The girls earned a 3-2 victory over the Hawks, last season’s Howard County champions. It was a bounce-back win after their only loss of the season four days earlier to Howard. Anna Ottman and Sandoze, Amarasinghe and Alibilli, as well as Leah Liu and Maria Ottman swept all three doubles matches to secure the victory.

The boys also won 3-2, helping to eliminate some of the sour taste from last season when the Hawks ended the Mustangs’ undefeated season, clinching the county championship. Marriott Ridge’s Mukundh Boopathi defeated River Hill’s Alex Artazov, the 2021 Howard County Times boys tennis Player of the Year.

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The Mustangs energy level picked up throughout that day. Captain Sai Charan Chodavarapu and Colin Wang entered the final match with the teams tied at 2. They ultimately won, 8-4. On both sides, the River Hill match epitomized the Mustangs’ camaraderie and how they’re more focused on team success rather than individual success.

“From the beginning of the year talking to the guys, I knew what I had to do to make sure everyone bought in and they weren’t being selfish,” senior captain Shreyas Rath said. “Sometimes you can easily see people being selfish and just worrying about their own matches. It came full circle during that River Hill match where we saw everyone celebrating, everyone yelling, everyone having the time of their lives.”

Friendly competition in practice has helped bring out the best in one another on match days. Both teams have been dominant for much of the season. The boys have won at least four of five matches in eight victories thus far, while the girls have done so five times.

“It’s all very competitive, so we all push each other to play a lot better and be more motivated to do well during our games,” senior Pedro Arantes Gabriel said.

With six matches remaining in the regular season, all eyes will be on the May 3 matchup against Centennial. The Eagles teams currently have the edge on the Mustangs for first place only due to the number of matches played; both sides are tied in the loss column. Centennial’s boys sit 12-0, the girls 11-1. Providing both teams take care of business until then, the winners May 3 will have the inside track to the county championships.

“’The job isn’t over yet,’ is I think kind of our mantra,” Chodavarapu said. “We beat River Hill and we’re currently undefeated, but there’s still so long to go before the season ends. If we want to finish this dream season we’re on now, we can’t stop. I’ve been in this situation for two straight years in the Marriotts Ridge program. We won once and the other time we were perfect until the last match of the season.

“That costs us the county [championship]† I think having that experience and knowing what can happen with a one-match slip is what keeps us on our feet, which keeps us practicing every single day. To make sure that when it comes to those deciding matches we’re ready for it and that we’re not snoozing on court.”

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