Adele Lair was the third United States Tennis Association player in the Mid-Atlantic region and the first from Maryland for her age group as a seventh grader.
However, Lair stopped playing when the coronavirus pandemic emerged in order to minimize the risks to his health and that of his family.
Lair played before his freshman season in high school at River Hill, but acclimating to tennis in a new atmosphere wasn’t easy. At first, she was stressed and struggled with her groundstrokes.
Unlike her previous tournament experience where everything was individualized, Lair could turn to teammates like juniors Priyanka Ramulu and Alex Artazov, as well as her older brother, Sebastien, a senior.
“Honestly, having Sébastien in the team has been very helpful to me because before every game we would rush to the courts and warm up before getting on the bus or before our home games,” Adele said. “He was always there for me. When I was struggling at the start of the season with stress and struggling with my groundstrokes, he was also helping me through that by hitting with me.
The more matches she played, the more this stress and mental blockage faded. Lair finished the regular season 11-0 in first place in singles. She continued that success in the playoffs, winning both the Howard County Cup and Class 3A East Region II titles. For her success, Lair is the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier 2022 Female Tennis Player of the Year.
Lair faced a familiar foe, centenarian senior Rose Huang, in the county cup final. A closely contested match throughout with stoppages due to rain and injury, Lair secured a hard-fought 8-6 win to clinch the title.
“When I found out I had to play Rose, I was really stressed,” Lair said. “I had played her when I was 9 and she was 12. It was one of my first tournaments for 12 and under. She was much taller than me and older than me, so I ended up losing pretty badly. Having to play her five years later was definitely a bit scary.
The match went back and forth. Lair was down a game, then rallied. Until 7-6, she needed medical time off for leg cramps. But she succeeded and finished the victory.
Lair gained confidence through the match and went from strength to strength in the regional tournament. The number one seed, Lair dominated the competition beating Johanna Shin of Wilde Lake, 6-1, 6-0, in the semi-finals. She beat Atholton’s Talia Brown, 6-0, 6-0, in the final, helping guide the Hawks to the regional title.
“I think his past experience at different levels of competition is really helpful,” said River Hill coach Kelley Pfefferkorn. “She’s a super consistent player and I think that’s where her opponents fall to her. I think consistency is super important because that’s what breaks your opponent down.
Lair finished third at the 3A State Tournament. She lost to Huang in the semifinals, but still played a key role in the Hawks winning the first state tag team title in program history. Despite her setbacks, Lair gained valuable playoff experience, exposed to new players and competition she had never seen before. Lair has also built strong relationships with her teammates off the court that are very different from her experience competing in USTA tournaments.
“It takes time to get to know your players and I’m so excited to get to know Adele’s game a little better,” Pfefferkorn said of what excites her most about the future. “As new players join other teams and she learns about different levels of play, I think that’s going to be really important and really great for her.”
Julia Cabacar, River Hill, Freshman
Cabacar has played both singles and mixed doubles. She finished the regular season 7-1 in singles No. 2 and was regional 3A mixed doubles champion and second in the United States with Vraj Patel.
Corinne Chau, Howard, Jr.
Chau won the 3A State and East Region I mixed doubles titles with Alex Brousseau. She also played No. 1 in singles and doubles for the Lions, finishing 10-1 in singles and 8-3 in doubles. At the Howard County Cup, she finished second in the No. 1 doubles flight alongside Viola Yu.
Nithya Chilukuri, Mount Hebron, second year
Chilukuri finished the regular season undefeated (10-0). She also reached the 3A East Region I Mixed Doubles Championship match with Guy Scafidi.
Rose Huang, centenarian, senior
Huang was the No. 1 Howard County Cup singles runner-up. She also won the 3A East Region I singles title with a 6-0, 6-0 victory in the final and finished second in the state.
Presley Caroland and Viola Yu, Howard, Elders
Caroland and Yu won the Region I 3A East doubles title, 7-5, 6-2, and finished second in the State 3A doubles tournament. Caroland played mostly doubles throughout the season, finishing 15-1 and winning the No. 2 doubles tournament at the Howard County Cup alongside Marina Kim. Yu was 15-3 in the regular season.
Adelaide Houston, River Hill, sophomore and Priyanka Ramulu, River Hill, junior
Houston and Ramulu swept the No. 1 doubles championship in counties, regionals and states. They beat Reservoir’s Gia Santos and Karen Yhim, 6-0, 6-1 in the regional final, and have never lost more than two games in a set at the state tournament.
Sarah Blackman, centenarian, senior
Joanna Blackman, centenarian, sophomore
Michelle Fradlin, centenarian, sophomore
Marina Kim, Howard, senior
Riya Rai, Mount Hebron, freshman