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Vol. LXV, No. 43
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
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QUALITY SERVICE: Princeton High girls’ tennis star Sarah Cen fires a serve in state tournament action. Last Thursday in the state Group 3 semifinals against Montville, Cen posted a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win over Kaitlin Sanzone at first singles. Cen’s victory was not enough, however, as PHS dropped a 3-2 nailbiter to the Mustangs.

Cen Shows Consistency at 1st Singles to the End As PHS Girls’ Tennis Falls in Group 3 Semifinals

Bill Alden

As the first singles player for the Princeton High girls’ tennis team, Sarah Cen has no problem going it alone.

Cen jumped into the top singles spot as freshman and has been a rock for the Little Tigers at the top of the lineup ever since.

But while Cen is self-reliant, she relishes being part of the PHS squad.

“It is an individual sport so when I do competitions and tournaments, I am all by myself,” said Cen.

“I look forward to seeing the tennis team at the beginning of the school year. I love the team feel.”

Last Thursday at the state Group 3 semifinals against Montville, Cen demonstrated her love for the team as she battled to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win over Kaitlin Sanzone.

“It was horribly windy,” said Cen. “I couldn’t quite hit my shots. She was being consistent and I lost a little bit of my rhythm there. I didn’t want to lose so I got my focus.”

Cen’s win knotted the match at 2-2 after Vinita Sun and Lena Sun had won at second doubles for the Little Tigers and it came down to the third set of the first doubles match as the PHS team of Helena Ord and Maddie Cahill-Sanidas had rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the second to set up the high-stakes finale.

The pair ran out of gas in the decisive set, however, falling 6-2 to leave PHS on the short end of a 3-2 nailbiter.

Cen admired the way her teammates battled against Montville. “The first doubles team pushed it into the third set,” recalled Cen. “The first doubles team always keeps fighting. We all played well.”

The team’s senior group has played well over the last four years and earning the program’s first sectional crown since 1999 was a fitting way to culminate their special run.

“Six of the seven players on the team are seniors, so making it this far is definitely something we should be proud of,” said Cen, whose classmates on the squad include Su, Ord, Sun, second singles player Keely Herring and third singles player Alyssa Taylor. “We are leaving with good accomplishments.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, for her part, was proud of what her senior group accomplished.

“It is a bunch of seniors and it was nice for them to get the opportunity to come this far,” said Hibbert.

While it would have been nice if PHS could have pulled out the match against Montville and made the state finals, Hibbert had no qualms with the effort she got from her players.

“They played well today, they fought hard,” asserted Hibbert. “The conditions were tough today, it was very windy. They just didn’t get the big points. There were deuces in so many games and it came down to one or two points going the wrong way. We fell short in the end but it was a nice accomplishment to get there.”

Hibbert liked the way Cen played to the end of her match. “I always have confidence in Sarah,” said Hibbert.

“Even if she loses the second set, I always believe she can come back and win the third set. Sometimes her focus will waver, especially when you have conditions like today or teammates on the court and you are trying to cheer for them. You have to focus on your game a little bit. She realizes that it is her time and she just turns it on.”

Turning the page on her corps of seniors isn’t going to be easy for Hibbert. “It will be tough next year,” said Hibbert, whose team is now 14-2 and has some regular season matches remaining as it is slated to host Robbinsville on October 26 and Hamilton on October 27.

“Many of this group made varsity as freshmen and they have been staples in the lineup for so long. It will be hard to lose them. They are leaders, friends, and good people. It is a great group and I will definitely miss them.”

For Cen, being at the top of that lineup has been a very good experience. “I try to keep positive and keep winning; it is not something I feel constantly pressured by,” said Cen. “I want to play in college. I have played and competed for so many years. I love tennis.”

And Cen has certainly loved being part of a PHS team that made program history.

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