Dennis Afanasev, right, who grew up on the Peninsula, poses with legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri after winning the Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open's boys 15-and-under crown at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. (IMG ACADEMY/COURTESY OF ANDREI AFANASEV / June 16, 2013)
Perhaps overshadowed by the Menchville High boys' historic season was the Warwick girls' excellence in going unbeaten through the Peninsula District.
While Menchville won every individual match -- all 81 of them -- in the PD, the Raiders were dominant too.
While considered in the preseason as a potential contender, Warwick became far more than that. The Raiders weren't threatened in their first eight matches, setting up a matchup of PD unbeatens at Gloucester for the district championship.
With the bottom of their lineup excelling, Warwick won 6-3 to finish a 9-0 district schedule. The Eastern Region quarterfinal rotation set up the Peninsula against the Eastern District, giving the Raiders an excellent opportunity to advance.
Facing Eastern District runner-up Granby, Warwick played its usually steady game and earned a 5-2 victory. From lines 3-6, Casey Williams, Meg Lenz, Katie Goodrich and Ellary Gantan registered singles triumphs.
That got the Raiders to the semifinals, where they finally were overmatched by a strong Cox team, losing 5-0 at Huntington Park to Falcons such as Eastern Region singles champion Olivia Large.
"This is the first time we've had so much depth," Warwick coach Adrienne Rylander said of the 10-1 Raiders. "Everybody can hold that spot.
"We don't have a lot of big talent, but the heart that we've expressed, that's all we can ask for. Menchville's had that depth forever."
Though she occasionally lost at No. 1, including in those three matches, a leader of this group was senior Katlyn Yarborough, a third-year Raider. She now will move on to Christopher Newport University, and while she won't be on its varsity team, her speed and consistency could make her an excellent addition to the club lineup.
"It's clear that we don't have any famous player, but we make our reputation by the way that we play," Yarborough said. "There were plenty of matches where people assumed that we were not going to win. Now that people see what we can do, ... it was a lot of fun."
Yarborough cited Williams as an example.
"Our No. 3 Casey, she had so much heart," she said. "That was the best present, just to see our team come together."
At CNU, "I am planning on taking pre-law. I plan to become a lawyer. I hope my competition goes on both courts."
New at Hampton Tennis Center
A true prize for tennis players in the area -- public clay courts -- is back in business on Woodland Road.
Clinics, lessons and leagues are among the features at Hampton Tennis Center, located in the same complex as the Woodlands golf course, near Hampton University.
HTC needed a new director of tennis after the retirement of local tennis legend Perk Crain and then CNU's hiring last summer of Eric Christiansen as its director (head coach) of men's and women's tennis.
Former Captains starter Thomas Onoff, who has been a solid local 4.5-rated player for years except when injuries forced him to stay off the court, took the job.
He then hired head pro Jennifer Itonyo, whose duties included running this weekend's one-day junior tournament.
Itonyo, 31, was born in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. She moved to the United States in 1997 and went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School in the Boston area.
She first played collegiately for Massachusetts, then transferred to Norfolk State, from where she graduated in 2006. She earned All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honors with the Spartans and has participated in numerous local tournaments since then.
As for Onoff, if you get a racket strung by him, you will join a club that features such stars a decade ago as Marat Safin.
Because of his long-held skill of stringing rackets quickly and properly, Onoff used to work at the U.S. Open, where elite players in many divisions provide a constant demand for efficiency.
Catching up with Dennis
Dennis Afanasev of Leesburg, who spent much of his childhood on the Peninsula but has been training in suburban Washington for the past few years, is starting to gain national attention.
About two weeks ago, Afanasev won the boys 15-and-under championship at the Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open.
He defeated four opponents -- all from outside the U.S. -- in straight sets, including a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Pedro Uribe of Colombia 6-1, 6-1 for the championship.
Thanks to Afanasev's father, Andrei, a professor at George Washington University, for that update.
According to the Tennis Recruiting Network, Afanasev is ranked 54th nationally, ninth in the Mid-Atlantic Section and first in Virginia among rising 10th-graders (the senior Class of 2016). He got as high as No. 52 on Feb. 26.
A host of local junior tournaments are being conducted this summer.
Among the recent champions was Kristin Dantzler in the girls 16-and-under "A" category of the William and Mary Junior 16s Smash Singles tournament, held at McCormack-Nagelsen Tennis Center.
Dantzler, who battles diabetes and deals with all of its attendant blood-sugar checks, joined York High newcomers Teresa Alvarez and Gaby Tersigni in providing the Falcons a potent top three this season.
Dantzler won the seven-player bracket in exciting fashion, taking a pair of match tiebreakers after splitting sets before beating Lindsay O'Neill of Glen Allen 6-4, 6-1 in the final. In her semifinal, Dantzler edged top seed Morgan Fuqua 6-4, 0-6, 1-0 (10-6).
Fuqua turned out to play a crucial role in Mills Godwin's march to the state Group AAA team championship, winning a three-set match on line 6 as the Eagles beat rival Deep Run 5-2 earlier this month at Huntington Park.
Programs to come
Hampton Tennis Center:
HTC has scheduled tennis camps for eight weeks: June 24-28; July 8-12, 15-19 and 22-26; July 29-Aug. 2; and Aug. 5-9, 12-16 and 19-23.
They are for ages 4-18 and will emphasize eye-hand coordination, ball control and consistency, and match play and formulating a game plan.
HTC also offers adult clinics, private, semi-private and group lessons, developmental tennis and an academy program.
For more information, call 757-727-1193 or 781-526-2196, or access hamptontenniscenter.com or jtitennis.com, Jennifer Itonyo's website.
Centre Court Racquet Club:
Centre Court's summer junior clinic will run from June 17 to Aug. 23. It will be held Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9-10:30 a.m.
The cost is $90 for six sessions or $18 per session, and attendance can be flexible. For more information, call Russell Nevins at 757-344-6263.