One of the keys to Dan Sablik's success on the tennis court is that he forces the action through his aggressive, on top of the action style of play.
The Madison High junior is hardly one to wait for an opponent to make a mistake through long, back and forth volleying. Instead, he puts the heat on opponents right away by playing the net whenever possible and pressuring his counterparts into miscues.
"He's an excellent server and volleyer," said Madison coach Glenn Adams, of the Warhawks' No. 1-seeded player. "He's not content to play in the back. He feels more comfortable being aggressive and on the offensive."
Sablik finished fourth in district singles last year. This year, he has gotten even better.
"He has modified and improved his serve quite a bit," said coach Adams.
The talented, 6-foot-3 inch Sablik's play has helped Madison get off to a solid 2-1 start this spring season. The Warhawks opened the schedule with a convincing 8-1 win over host Fairfax on March 19. They were also victorious in their following match five days in a road victory at Stone Bridge in Ashburn, 9-0, on March 24.
One day later, Madison lost its first match of the season, 6-3, falling to home team and Northern Region power Langley.
All three Liberty District matches took place on the road. Madison, which has been practicing throughout this week's spring break, is scheduled to play its home opener next Monday afternoon, April 5 against McLean. The competition is set to begin at 3:30.
<b>SABLIK, WHO IS</b> 3-0 thus far at his No. 1 position, is one of three team captains on the 24-member Madison roster. The other two tri-captains are seniors Dan Nappi and Eric Leeson, who are currently playing at No. 4 and 5 singles, respectively.
Adams, in his ninth year as the Madison head coach, is quite pleased with the leadership all three players, Sablik, Nappi and Leeson, are providing.
Of Sablik, the coach said, "It's very rare we have a junior as [one of our] captains, but he has proven to be a leader."
Then, of his two senior captains - Nappi and Leeson - Adams said, "They've both risen to the challenge of leadership."
Nappi is in his fourth year as a member of the Madison squad. Leeson, meanwhile, has been a part of the program since his family moved to the Northern Virginia area from Wisconsin prior to his sophomore year. He has also excelled on the gridiron for Madison, earning First Team All-District honors at middle linebacker this past season.
<b>MADISON'S ROSTER</b> size of 24 is larger than that of most high school boys' teams across the state. Northern Region teams do not carry the sport at the freshmen or JV levels.
Adams believes it is beneficial to have the large varsity roster. First, there is solid talent up and down the Warhawks' roster, including numerous underclassmen that have the potential to help the program in the future. Also, he does not believe student-athletes who enjoy tennis should be penalized just because there are no freshmen and JV programs set up. Adams would rather have those underclassmen out and practicing daily as varsity team members as opposed to not being a part of the team at all.
"It's worked out well," said Adams, of having the large roster. "We have such parity on the team."
While Madison is likely to be one of the better teams in the district this spring, the teams to beat, as usual, are Langley (3-0) and Thomas Jefferson. Both finished with 13-1 records a year ago, ahead of Madison (10-4).
While the Warhawks fell to Langley last week, Adams was not disappointed in his team's overall play against the Saxons.
"I was pleased with our play despite the loss," he said.
Sablik, at No. 1 singles, was a 10-3 winner over Langley senior Sachin Tewari. Madison's other two wins in the match came in doubles competition. At No. 1 doubles, Sablik teamed up with junior Pablo Pablo to best the Saxons' duo of Evan Bemer and Jimmy Fang by a 10-3 score. At No. 3, the Warhawks' twosome of Nappi and sophomore John Adam defeated Tewari and Jeff Small, 9-7.
In Madison's sweep win over Stone Bridge last week, the Warhawks' singles winners were: Sablik (No. 1), Pablo (No. 2), junior Hojoon Choi (No. 3), Nappi (No. 4), Leeson (No. 5) and sophomore Alex Russell (No. 6).
Madison's doubles winners were: Sablik and Pablo (No. 1), Choi and Leeson (No. 2) and Nappi and Adam (No. 3).
In Madison's season opening win over Fairfax, Madison singles winners were Sablik, Choi, Pablo, Leeson and Nappi. The Warhawks swept in doubles play, with Sablik and Pablo at No. 1, Choi and Leeson at No. 2 and Nappi and Adam at No. 3.