With Senior Stalwarts Fighting to the End, PHS Boys’ Tennis Made Sectional Semis
Eddie Percarpio’s shoulder had been ailing but the Princeton High boys’ tennis team senior star was not about to sit out the state tournament.
As PHS played Monmouth in the second round of the Central Jersey Group 3 tourney, Percarpio took the court at first singles even though he could only serve underhanded.
Showing grit and savvy, Percarpio pulled out a 7-6, 6-3 win to help the Little Tigers prevail 5-0.
PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert saw Percarpio’s performance as a sterling example of senior leadership.
“Eddie had a great match; he has been out for a while with a sore shoulder and has been resting it as much as he could,” said Hibbert.
“He asked me to play; he is a senior and it is his last chance in states. He was a great asset for us. He relied on his ground strokes and mental game.
Percarpio’s effort set a tone for the fourth seeded Little Tigers didn’t drop a set in the win over fifth-seeded Monmouth.
“We didn’t know what to expect; we hadn’t played them and we didn’t play teams they compete against,” added Hibbert.
“Once we got started I was pleased with how the guys played and took care of business.”
Advancing to play top-seeded Hopewell Valley in the sectional semis, Hibbert knew her team was facing a formidable foe.
“We had a tough match with them earlier in the season,” said Hibbert, whose team had lost 5-0 to the Bulldogs on April 12 in a regular season meeting.
“I told the guys we are a much different team than we were a month and a half ago. We had played in the county tournament and we had a lot of tough matches. I told them we had a shot at this.”
While PHS ended up falling 4-1 to the Bulldogs in the May 16 rematch, the Little Tiger players certainly gave it their best shot.
“We won two first sets; we only won one first set in the earlier match,” said Hibbert,
“We were a lot more competitive in a lot of the matches. We played a much closer match than the first time. There were a few tough decisions here or there.”
Once again, a senior showed toughness for PHS as third single player Julian Edgren played on through pain even after HoVal had clinched victory.
“It came down to two matches and they were both split through the first two sets, recalled Hibbert.
“After second singles lost, they had it. Julian started getting leg cramps but he stayed out there.”
The team’s core of seniors, Robert Zhao, Kevin Qiu, Percarpio, and Edgren, have demonstrated staying power over their careers.
“They have been a very strong group,” said Hibbert, whose team topped Lawrence 5-0 on May 18 to improve to 13-3 and was slated to wrap up the season with matches against Notre Dame and WW/P-S.
“They came in as freshmen and played at the top of JV and had some varsity matches. By sophomore year, they ended up in the varsity lineup. They have had various spots. The last two years, they were at singles with Kevin as a staple on doubles. It is always sad to lose a core of seniors. The guys are close; they hang out away from tennis and they are friends off the court.
Having gone with freshmen Adib Zaidi, Tyler Hack, and Rishab Tanga in the starting lineup, the Little Tigers boast a good core of players going forward.
“It is a steady group of players; we do have some bright young prospects with the three freshmen who played this year,” added Hibbert. “I think they can be a great help to us in the future at singles or doubles.”