Short Pump Big Contributor to Deep Run's success
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
No wonder Deep Run High School’s tennis teams keep getting better and better.
Their primary feeder is Short Pump Middle School, which generally has the best teams in Henrico and Hanover counties, and is coached by a former Douglas Freeman High School standout Mary Ellen (Lahy) Suttle.
In fact, both the girls’ and boys’ teams went undefeated this year on the way to their respective championships.
The girls just finished up their season late last month, beating Fairfield in the semifinals of the Henrico/Hanover middle school tournament 9-0 and then knocking off Chickahominy 7-2 in the final to finish 10-0.
That was the same record that the boys had in the spring, when they defeated Oak Knoll in the final.
“All of these girls are very competitive,” said Suttle of her most recent champions.
“One of my favorite things about this is you see the friendships develop between these girls at practice, at matches, and they even hang out together outside of school. They play tournaments together. Some even dressed up for Halloween together.
“The camaraderie that forms between them is a great part of it for me.”
Short Pump’s No. 1 player was seventh-grader Audrey Butterworth, the daughter of former city singles champion Ed Butterworth. She was followed by Brooke Connatser (7th), Lindsey O’Neil (7th) and co-captain Emma Harper (8th).
The doubles pairings were Allie Kelleher and Jackie Hemp at No. 1, followed by Kelly Drash-Marina Albuquerque, Caroline Parlantieri-Olivia Gilmore/Kayla Concepcion, Mary Katherine McCullough-Linda Ma and Sophia Brat-Allison Castellano.
Gilmore, one of the co-captains, sustained a dislocated and broken elbow during the season, yielding her spot to Concepcion.
In middle school matches, four singles and five doubles account for the scoring. That allows more players (14) to participate in the outcome. High school matches are composed of six singles and three doubles (12 players).
Short Pump’s closest match was against perennially strong Tuckahoe Middle, which took the Pumas to a 5-4 nail-biter.
Among the recent Short Pump alumni who have helped Deep Run become a serious contender on the local and state scene are Nina Sorkin, Caroline Mosberg and Logan Eldridge. Deep Run was runner-up to Mills Godwin in the girls’ state Group AAA tournament in June.
The Wildcats were also the only team to beat Godwin during the regular season.
On the boys’ side, the Pumas were led by William Sheppard, Shashwat Pande, Evan Limoges and Christian Smucker, who is now a freshman at Deep Run.
Prior to a rebuilding effort last season, the Deep Run boys had had a terrific run in the state tournament, winning three consecutive team championships (2010-12) and finishing runner-up to Mills Godwin in 2009.
This is Suttle’s seventh year as the coach at Short Pump, and more often than not, her teams have ruled the roost at the middle-school level. Of course, there is usually plenty of talent for her to choose from in the tennis-rich western end of Henrico County, but someone has to mold the young players into a team.
“A lot of these kids play tennis outside of practice,” said Suttle, who played for two years at Southern Methodist University. “They’re very athletic. It all kind of clicks together, all the parts that you need to have a good team and a successful season.”
While the Deep Run boys have already shown what they can do on the state level, the girls don’t appear to be far behind. With Short Pump’s assistance, the Wildcats could be on the verge of dominating both locally and statewide.