Huff, Bernstine Receive 2017 Most Improved Awards

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Huff, Bernstine Receive 2017 Most Improved Awards

RICHMOND– Six of the top players in the Richmond area were honored for their achievements in 2017 during a banquet at the Willow Oaks Country Club on Feb. 28.

The most improved player honors are given to a pair of the top juniors in the metro area. Helena Huff and Ryan Bernstine are this year’s recipients of the awards.

Huff, a freshman at Collegiate, played No. 1 singles during the fall season and was voted MVP of the team.

She is ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Atlantic 14s and No. 6 in the 16s. 

The 14-year-old is currently ranked No. 80 by the USTA in the 14s category.

Collegiate Head Coach Karen Whitt said Huff brings a lot to her team.

“She brought a fun-loving attitude to the game that was only exceeded by her work ethic during practice, in the weight room and during matches,” Whitt said of Huff, who received the Ellen Smith Maloney award.

The Sam Woods award went to Bernstine, a junior at Goochland High School, where he takes part in the Blue Ridge Governor’s School and has a 3.8-grade point average.

He will succeed his brother, Chase, at No. 1 singles for the Bulldogs this spring.

Bernstine is ranked No. 4 in the Mid-Atlantic 16s age group and his national ranking is 140th.

He lost to Chase in the boys 2A state singles final last spring before teaming with his brother to capture the doubles title.

Bernstine has verbally committed to Virginia Tech, where Chase is a freshman.

The Dorothy Chewning award for enthusiasm was presented to Lucy Davis.

Davis is a senior at Douglas Freeman High School. Her coaches say her love of the game is infectious to everyone around her.

The Greg Semon award for enthusiasm for the game was presented to Makkijha Brown.

Brown, who is homeschooled, works with Jamie Morgan and travels all over town in an effort to improve his game.

Morgan said it is a pleasure to work with Brown.

“It is the unanimous opinion of all who have worked with Makkijha that he gives 110 percent effort all the time,” said Morgan. “He travels from the Varina area to the hotbeds of tennis in Richmond’s West End and Southside to make himself better by playing with the best players Richmond has to offer.”

The Sue Cain sportsmanship award for the girls went to Sophie Mitchell, another Collegiate product, and the Richard B. Passloff sportsmanship award for the boys was given to Matthew Oley.

Mitchell, a junior at Collegiate, was chosen All-State her sophomore and junior seasons and helped the Cougars claim the League of Independent Schools championship last fall.

She is currently ranked No. 17 in Mid-Atlantic girls 18s and 16th in doubles.

Whitt said Mitchell maintains good sportsmanship on and off the court.

“That’s invaluable for the younger players on the team and makes her a much-sought-after doubles partner,” Whitt said.

Oley is a senior at Douglas Freeman High School and a four-year letterman for the Rebels. He is captain of the squad and is expected to play No. 2 singles this spring.

The valedictorian of his class, Oley was awarded a community service excellence award for his outreach to the mentally ill and underprivileged.

Coach Damian Sancilio said Oley has always shown respect for the game. Sancilio has coached Oley since age 10. 

“He has taught tennis camps for me, and all the kids love being on his court for his encouragement and positive attitude,” Sancilio said.