They made sure there were no frightening moments on Saturday, playing superbly in the semifinals and the final to win Washington County’s only region title and earn the county’s only state tournament berth this season.
After rolling past Tuscarora’s Bobby Matusek and Amanda Muhlback 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals, Ober and Johnson dispatched Oakdale’s Karl Sasse and Michelle Rizk 6-1, 6-2 for the championship.
Ober and Johnson will next play at the Maryland State Tournament on Friday at University of Maryland at College Park.
“It’s funny because last year, (Ober) called me the morning of states and said, ‘Do you want to go watch?’” Johnson said.
“Now we’re there,” Ober added.
Ober and Johnson improved to 6-0 as a team with a phenomenal all-court display against Sasse and Rizk. Both players put away numerous volleys at the net as well as a handful of groundstrokes from the baseline. Ober and Johnson even took turns hitting lob winners over their onrushing opponents, especially in the first set.
“(The lobs) were key to get them off their game,” said Ober, who went 17-1 at No. 1 singles this season for the Hubs before coach Kevin Reynolds made the decision to pair him with Johnson for the postseason, with a state berth the goal.
That goal was in danger in Friday’s quarterfinals, when Ober and Johnson dropped the second set before putting away Middletown’s Taiki Haugen and Megan Robertson 6-1, 2-6, 6-3.
“We learned we were going to have to play tough the whole way through,” said Johnson — “And not play tentative,” Ober added.
“The biggest difference between today and yesterday was they hit with pace,” Reynolds said. “They had great depth on their shots. Doubles is about controlled aggression, and they had (Sasse and Rizk) on their heels. They were aggressive, and that’s what tennis is supposed to look like.”
Overall, it was a rough tournament for county players. Of the 15 players or doubles teams in the tournament, 10 lost in Friday’s quarterfinals — the biggest surprise being Boonsboro’s girls doubles team of Sarah Colgan and Ashlyn Hawbaker losing to Walkersville’s Mary Hessler and Leah Allnutt, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4). Colgan and Hawbaker were 19-0 this season before the loss.
On Saturday, four of the five players or teams remaining lost in the semifinals.
Clear Spring’s Miranda Kearney — 18-0 entering the day — lost to Tuscarora’s Ana Chernova 6-2, 6-4 in the girls singles semifinals. The Blazers’ doubles teams of Andrew Shupp/Scott Hovermale (boys doubles) and Corey McClure/Dominique Forsman (mixed doubles) also fell. Shupp and Hovermale lost 6-1, 6-1 to Walkersville’s Tim Anderson and Matt Guyton, and McClure and Forsman fell to Sasse and Rizk, 6-1, 6-2.
Boonsboro’s Serge Aleshin-Guendel lost to Urbana’s Edward Yoon 6-3, 6-2 in the boys singles semifinals.
Kearney and McClure/Forsman won third-place matches to become first alternates for the state tournament from the region. Kearney beat Northern Garrett’s Ashley Miller 6-3, 6-1 to raise her season record to 19-1, while McClure and Forsman beat Matusek and Muhlback 6-2, 6-2.
As for Ober and Johnson, they’re happy to be the last county players standing, and they’re prepared to make a run at states.
“We’re ready for the challenge,” Johnson said.