Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 44
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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COMEBACK KIDS: Princeton Day School second doubles player Ariel Multak, foreground, guards the net as Brittany Christian prepares to serve in action earlier this fall. The pair of Multak and Christian rebounded from losing the first set and trailing 5-2 in the third to win their flight at the Prep B championships last Thursday. The Panthers won the Prep B team title, totaling 13 points with Ranney School next at eight.

PDS Girls’ Tennis Rides Doubles Wins to Capture Prep B Team Championship

Bill Alden

Needing to win their match to clinch the state Prep B girls’ tennis team championship for Princeton Day School last Thursday, the first doubles pair of Elena Bowen and Sammy Schaeffer got off to a fast start.

The team of senior Bowen and sophomore Schaeffer breezed to a 6-3 win in the first set of their championship match with Ranney School’s Melissa Cantane and Alyssa Flashberg.

Early in the second set of the match, which was held at the Stuart Country Day tennis courts, the PDS team seemed headed to certain victory as they jumped out to a 5-2 lead.

But then things got dicey as the Ranney team rallied, winning two straight games to put Bowen and Schaeffer on their heels.

Bowen acknowledged that she and Schaeffer were feeling the pressure.

“I definitely think the nerves got to us,” said Bowen. “The first set wasn’t easy, we had to stay strong. We couldn’t let our guard down.”

The PDS pair huddled several times on the court and got a pep talk from head coach Patty Headley as they struggled to close the deal.

With the battle-tested Bowen serving, the Panthers were able to close out the match with a 6-4 win, prompting shrieks of joy and an extended bear hug.

In reflecting on the win, Schaeffer said that the team had to disregard what was at stake and just get back in the moment.

“I think it was just a positive attitude,” said Schaeffer. It was clearing everything out of our heads and just taking it point by point.”

The win by Bowen and Schaeffer combined with a straight-set victory by Sami Lieb at first singles put PDS over the top in the Prep B tourney. Later in the afternoon, the Panthers got a dramatic come-from-behind win by Brittany Christian and Ariel Multak at second doubles to give it 13 points with runner-up Ranney tallying eight.

For Bowen, it was special to see her two-year partnership with Schaeffer end in a title.

“I think our chemistry is great, we really know how to work with each other,” said Bowen.

“Sammy knows how to hold me down when I start getting mad. We definitely know if a ball is coming to Sammy at net and I can tell if she is going to get it and I will know whether to back her up. We have really worked out things like that over the past few years.”

In Bowen’s view, PDS’s collective chemistry helped it work its way to the championship.

“I think we are a great team,” asserted Bowen. “We had a rough beginning to the season and the lineup was mixed up for a while. Once we got set in our places, we really bonded. I think this is the closest team we have had in a long time.”

Head coach Headley echoes that sentiment. “These girls are a team; they are not just a group of girls involved in an after-school activity with each other,” said Headley. “They support each other; I am so proud of them, I can’t even tell you.”

Headley was proud to see her first doubles clinch the team title. “It’s very comforting to know that they know each other’s game; they can play off of each other,” said Headley, whose team fell 3-2 to Ranney last Monday in a regular season match.

“They know their weaknesses and strengths and they are tough. They really support each other. When things are not looking good; they all are there for each other.”

In Headley’s view, the positive team karma helped the second doubles pair of Christian and Multak produce their stunning rally which saw them pull out a win after losing the first set of their match with Ranney’s Alison Mancuso and Diane Scavelli and trailing 5-2 in the third and decisive set.

“That second doubles was totally amazing,” said a beaming Headley. “All their teammates were right there for them. I think if you could just will somebody hard enough, it works. I think they were getting a lot of strength from their teammates.”

Even though PDS moved down to Prep B from Prep A this season, Headley never saw the title as a foregone conclusion.

“I didn’t think that,” said Headley, when asked if PDS was the team to beat in the Prep B ranks.

“I knew that Ranney had a good team. I honestly believe that your whole season can change on one sprained ankle, one bad shoulder or one cyst on a wrist. I never, ever think that we have it made, I really don’t.”

Bowen, for her part, acknowledged that she and Schaeffer learned a lesson in not taking things for granted.

“We may have let our guard down a bit and lost a little focus,” said Bowen. “We thought it was over before it was over which you really can’t do in a match like this.”

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