Six are honored at Junior Awards Banquet

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Six are honored at Junior Awards Banquet

Six of the most talented and eager-to-learn players in the area were honored March 6 at the Richmond Tennis Association’s annual Junior Awards Banquet at Willow Oaks Country Club.

         The two most prestigious accolades went to Olivia Wright, who received the Ellen Smith Maloney award for the most improved female player, and Chase Robinson, who took home the Sam Woods award for most improved male player.

         A sophomore at Deep Run High School, where she plays No. 1 singles and doubles, Wright helped the Wildcats go unbeaten and win the Class 5 state championship last spring. She and teammate Audrey Butterworth went undefeated in doubles and captured the state title.

         Wright began really concentrating on tennis last year, when she gave up competitive soccer, her first love. Her latest ranking is 22nd in the Mid-Atlantic girls 18s division.

        Robinson, who attends Westminster Academy, started 2018 at No. 605 in national singles and finished the year No. 50. In the Mid-Atlantic, he wound up the year at No. 3 in singles and No. 2 in doubles in his age group.

         The son of former local star, Cris Robinson, he was unranked in national doubles starting the year and finished with a high of 10th. Robinson also earned USTA Silver (second place) and Bronze (third place) balls in national tournaments.

         The sportsmanship awards were given to Emily Wirt and Elliot French.

         Wirt received the Sue Cain Sportsmanship award. She is a junior at Mills Godwin High School, where she plays No. 1 singles and doubles. Wirt earned All-Metro first-team honors last spring and is ranked fourth in Virginia and No. 20 in Mid-Atlantic in the girls 18 division.

         “Emily’s high energy and enthusiasm during match play or practice allow for great social interaction,” said Mark Seidenberg, her coach at Godwin. “She is able to build strong relationships and get to know people through her positive tennis attitude and sportsmanship.”

         French was given the Richard B. Passloff Sportsmanship Award. He is a junior at the Steward School, where he plays No. 1 singles for the Spartans. French was named second-team All-State for VISAA as a freshman and sophomore.

         Steward captured the state championship in their division last spring.

         “Elliot is a fine young man who works very hard on the tennis court,” said his coach Damien Sancilio. “He is always respectful of his coaches and other players. He acknowledges well-played points by his opponents and is liked by all.”

         The enthusiasm awards went to Emme Levenson and Rishi Shankar.
         Levenson took home the Dorothy Chewning Award for Enthusiasm for the Game on the female side. A senior at Douglas Freeman High School, where she plays No. 1 singles and doubles for the Rebels, Levenson won the Class 5 state singles crown last year.

         She is currently ranked No. 14 in the Mid-Atlantic 18 girls’ singles division and 225th in the nation.

         Levenson was named the All-Metro girls’ player of the year in 2018 and will continue her tennis career at Colgate University.

         “Emme is an outstanding tennis player and an even better person,” said her coach Larry Parpart. “Her enthusiasm for the game of tennis is contagious to all of us who come in contact with her, including her coach and her teammates. She is a wonderful ambassador for the game of tennis.”

         Shankar received the Greg Semon Award for Enthuiasm for the Game on the boys’ side. He is a junior at Mills Godwin, where he plays No. 1 singles and doubles for the Eagles. Shankar was a member of the All-Metro team last spring.

         He is currently ranked No. 18 in boys’ 16 in the Mid-Atlantic after finishing 18th in the boys’ 14 division.

         The guest speaker for the banquet was Jacob Dunbar, assistant men’s and women’s coach at the University of Richmond. He told the audience of parents and juniors that, “You cannot work hard enough, there is always someone working harder.”

         Dunbar also talked about the value of tennis in your life. On an individual basis, it teaches kids to fight hard, problem solve, and think independently. Teamwork also teaches them to never shy away from  working together to get better and win matches.