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Vol. LXV, No. 42
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
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WINNING TANDEM: Princeton High girls’ tennis doubles star Maddie Cahill-Sanidas, right, blasts a shot as partner Helena Ord backs her up. The first doubles team of Cahill-Sanidas and Ord posted a straight-set win last Monday to help top-seeded PHS edge No. 2 Manasquan 3-2 in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title match.

PHS Girls’ Tennis Wins Sectional Title; Hopes to Keep Rolling in State Final 4

Bill Alden

One is elegant and quiet while the other is athletic and chatty.

They may not seem like a natural match but Helena Ord and Maddie Cahill-Sanidas have formed a winning team at first doubles for the Princeton High girls’ tennis team over the last two years.

On the court, they complement each other tactically and emotionally.

“I can bring the power serve and Helena is always there to back me up with her consistency,” said junior Cahill-Sanidas. “It is a great balance. She is so good at the net. On some points that we have, it is like this just feels great.”

Ord, for her part, believes the pair’s contrasting personalities also balance out well.

“I think what is great is that we are able to support each other emotionally,” said senior Ord.

“I am the calm one and she is a little more emotional. It works both ways. We always know how to get back in the game if we are down. We have had a lot of matches where we have lost the first set and we were able to come back and win in three sets almost all of those times.”

Last Monday, the pair was fired up to be playing in the championship match of the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional as top-seeded PHS faced second-seeded Manasquan at Mercer County Park.

“We got to the final my junior year but we lost,” said Ord. “We have been preparing for this all year. We definitely think this is our year. All year, we have been gearing up for this.”

Cahill-Sanidas echoed Ord’s sentiments. “We are all really pumped up to get it this time,” said the junior, who also stars in basketball and softball.

The pair came through, winning their match 7-5, 6-3 over Abby Harmon and Maggie Moore to secure the first point for PHS.

Minutes later, Sarah Cen wrapped up a straight set win at first singles over Abby Duddy and then the second doubles team of seniors Lena Sun and Vinita Su followed suit with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Meredith Bryant and Emma Mateck as PHS clinched the title, going on to post a 3-2 win.

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert sensed that her team was primed to come through with a title as they hit the court on Monday.

“They were definitely excited; they knew we had a really good shot at winning,” said Hibbert, whose team is slated to face North 1 champion Montville on the morning of October 20 at Mercer County Park in the state Group semifinal with the winner advancing to the state championship match that afternoon.

“Manasquan had a similar match with HoVal [a 3-2 win] in the semis to our regular season match. We knew it was up for grabs and it would come down to who played their best that day.”

Hibbert was not surprised that the tandem of Ord and Cahill-Sanidas got the day off to a good start for PHS. “They have been a strong point for us over the last two years,” said Hibbert.

“When they play well together, they are tough to beat. They fought through a very tough first set. They had a very long game at 5-3 in the second set with eight or nine deuces. They realized this is it, let’s close it out. They got our first point; they were the first ones off the court.”

With first doubles setting the tone, things came together quickly for PHS.

“In five or 10 minutes, both Sarah and second doubles won; it happened fast,” recalled Hibbert, whose team improved to 12-1 on the season. “Both matches were at 3-2 when first doubles won. Sarah pulled away, winning the last three games and then second doubles won their match.”

The win triggered some deep emotions for a squad that came within a point of winning the county championship earlier this fall.

“They were all very excited,” said Hibbert. “They were disappointed with the finish at the counties; it was so close and it didn’t happen. They thought they could do well in the states and really wanted this title. They all pulled together and got us what we needed to get the sectional title.”

With the PHS girls’ program having won its last sectional title in 1999 and having endured some near misses over the last decade, Hibbert savored the win.

“It is really nice,” said Hibbert. “It is almost a relief; being so close and never being able to win sectionals. We ran into some strong teams over the years like Moorestown and Holmdel. With Holmdel getting moved out of sectional this year; we thought we had a chance.”

Hibbert is particularly glad this group took advantage of its chance to win a sectional.

“So many of them are seniors and so many played together for so long,” said Hibbert, whose other seniors include Keely Herring at second singles and Alyssa Taylor at third singles.

“They are a really tight knit group; they are all really good friends. There was a realization that there isn’t much more time together and this was it. They wanted to go out on a high note. I hope we keep playing well. Winning the sectional was one of our top goals and anything else is icing on the cake.”

For Ord, that realization brings a bittersweet feeling. “A lot of us have been on varsity since freshman year,” said Ord.

“I think we have gotten better together. It is going to be tough to part from these people. I have never missed a match in my career here; it is going to be very strange leaving. I am really happy with how things turned out.”

While Cahill-Sanidas may feel a little lonely next season, she will benefit from what she has experienced this fall.

“We are a team; everyone loves each other,” said Cahill-Sanidas. “It is a great experience. I’ll be fine next year but it will be kind of hard.”

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