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Vol. LXV, No. 39
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
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ON THE FENCE: Princeton high girls’ tennis head coach Sarah Hibbert nervously watches the action last Wednesday at the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers trailed the Princeton Day School by one point with three matches outstanding on the last afternoon of competition, needing a win in one of the doubles finals to clinch at least a tie. But PHS came up short, falling in both of the doubles matches as PDS hung on to win the title with 17.5 points to the 16.5 posted by the Little Tigers.

PHS Girls’ Tennis Falls Just Short of MCT Crown; Vows That Disappointment Will Fuel State Run

Bill Alden

Coming into the Mercer County Tournament last week, Sarah Hibbert had high hopes for her Princeton High girls’ tennis team.

“It was a year I was finally hoping to be able to win for these girls,” said PHS head coach Hibbert, whose team was the MCT runner-up in 2010 and third the year before.

“This is a group of mainly seniors and a lot of them have been playing since freshman year.”

As the teams came into the final day of competition at Mercer County Park, the Little Tigers seemed to be on the verge of that elusive championship as they were tied atop the standings with Princeton Day School.

With players alive in four of the tourney’s five flights, PHS was in good shape to overcome the Panthers. In a nailbiting finale, the Little Tigers trailed PDS by one point with three matches outstanding, needing a win in one of the doubles finals to clinch at least a tie.

But PHS came up short, falling in both of the doubles matches as PDS hung on to win the title with 17.5 points to the 16.5 accumulated by the Little Tigers.

Afterward, a subdued Hibbert reflected on the bittersweet nature of the result for the Little Tigers.

“It was a very tough field so to come in second of all these teams was a really nice accomplishment,” said Hibbert.

“It was just a little disappointing the way it ended with two really close matches not going our way. There were a lot of ifs and buts and you can’t go over that; there were a lot of things that could have gone differently to give us first place. When the last ball fell, it didn’t fall the right way for us.”

The first doubles team of Helena Ord and Maddie Cahill-Sanidas fell in a tough three-setter to top-seeded Audrey West and Willa Sweeney of Hopewell Valley, 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, in the title match while the second doubles pair of Lena Sun and Vinita Su lost 6-4, 6-2 to Peddie’s Hannah Spears and Rebecca Seman in the their championship match.

“First doubles fought really hard and just lost to a really good team in the third set,” added Hibbert, who got a third place finish from Keely Herring at second singles with first singles star Sarah Cen taking fourth.

“Things just didn’t quite go their way. The second doubles team was tired from the semis. They were hurting a little bit, both of them had pulled muscles.”

Hibbert liked the way senior standout Herring battled in the third-place match at second singles as she rallied to pull out a 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 win over Margaret MacArthur of WW/P-S.

“Keely kept fighting to the last point,” said Hibbert. “I told them that this tournament could go down to a half point and that every match mattered. They all really fought as hard as they could to pick up points.”

Herring, for her part, was ready to give her all for the team. “I started off behind and we were talking earlier that I needed that half point and the team needed that half point,” said Herring.

“I was really motivated to fight through that match. She is a great player; it was back and forth, both of us were really worn out after four matches. I am glad I pulled it through for my team.”

For Herring, the team feeling is particularly strong among her classmates.

“It is a great group of seniors, most of us have known each other since freshman year with the addition of Lena later on and Vinita this year,” said Herring.

“We have definitely grown during practices. We have a great relationship, everyone is very close and we love to joke with each other. When we have to be, we can be serious.”

Displaying that team spirit, Herring and Cen didn’t sit around after their last matches were completed. Instead, they made a beeline to cheer on their teammates in the doubles matches.

“I know from experience that it is just terrible to have the other team’s supporters there,” said Herring. “It is great to have our team there to support you just to give you words of confidence.”

Herring is confident the Little Tigers can do some good things in the upcoming state tournament.

“I think everyone is going to come back with a vengeance because we came in second,” said Herring.

“We are definitely looking forward to states, everyone is pumped up because that is another tournament up for grabs. If we work hard and stay focused, we definitely have a chance of bringing that home.”

Hibbert, for her part, believes her battle-tested squad is primed for the homestretch.

“I think we definitely played well today, we have the potential to do very well in states,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Hamilton 5-0 last Monday to improve to 5-0 in dual match action and and plays at Steinert on September 30 and at WW/P-S on October 4.

“We just have to keep everyone healthy and playing well. Hopefully we will do good things.”

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