Huff, Bernstine Receive 2017 Most Improved Awards

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Huff, Bernstine Receive 2017 Most Improved Awards

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

While all of the awards are significant in their own right, the most improved player honors are usually 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 for the Cougars during the fall season and was voted MVP of the team. In addition, she is ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Atlantic in the girls 14 age group and No. 6 in the girls 16s.

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

“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,” Collegiate coach Karen 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 boys 16 age group and his national ranking is 140th.  He lost to Chase in the boys 2A state singles final last spring and then teamed with Chase to capture the doubles title.

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

The Greg Semon award for enthusiasm for the game went to Makkijha Brown on the boys side, while the Dorothy Chewning award for enthusiasm among the girls was given to Lucy Davis.

Davis is a senior at Douglas Freeman High School, where her coaches say she demonstrates a love of the game day in and day out, and her energy and love of the game is infectious to everyone around her.

Determined to improve her game, Davis brings a great attitude, hard-work ethic and a smile to every one of her practices and matches.

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

“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.

“His love for the game and work ethic is inspiring for those players, as well as for the coaches, who have had the pleasure of working with him.”

And last but far from least are the sportsmanship honors. The Sue Cain award for the girls went to Sophie Mitchell, another Collegiate product, and the Richard B. Passloff 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.

“Sophie leads by example with her sportsmanship on the court and off,” said Whitt. “That’s invaluable for the younger players on the team and makes her a much-sought after doubles partner.”

Oley is a senior at Douglas Freeman High School and a four-year letterman for the Rebels. In addition, he is captain of the squad, where he 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.

“Matthew has loved tennis for years and has always shown respect for the game, his peers and his coaches with his actions on and off the court,” said Damian Sancilio, who has worked with Oley since he was 10.

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