Samantha Asch possessed firsthand knowledge of the challenge she faced when she played Christina Rosca last Wednesday in the first singles final at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT).
Princeton Day School senior star Asch has spent a lot of time on the court with Princeton High freshman standout Rosca.
“For years we have been hitting with Marc [Hill of Nassau Racquet Club],” said Asch, who was going for her fourth straight MCT title, having won second singles as a freshman and first singles the last two years.
“This was the first time we ever played a match officially. We did have a scrimmage earlier in the year. She is a really good player; there was no way she was going to hand that to me.”
Asch had to summon her skill and experience to get the upper hand on Rosca in posting a 6-1, 6-2 victory. “I had to concentrate and play hard to beat her,” said Asch.
“I dipped at the beginning of the second set; I had a little bit of a mental lapse. She had a couple of good serving games.”
While Asch was proud to join the select club of players who have won four MCT individual crowns, she was disappointed to see PDS fall short of repeating its team title as it placed fifth with WW/P-S taking first overall.
“I don’t think I could ask for more,” said Asch, reflecting on her MCT achievement.
“I am a little disappointed that we didn’t get the team title because I feel like our team was even better going into this year. That is the way it goes but I am still really happy about it.”
Asch is happy about the improvements she has made in her game over the last year.
“I think I have gotten a lot stronger since last year and I have more power,” said Asch. “I have gotten bigger and my serve has gotten a lot better.”
Now Asch feels ready for a bigger challenge as she has committed to Wake Forest and will be joining the school’s women’s tennis program. Asch, who is graduating this December from PDS, is excited about getting her college career underway in a few months.
“First of all, I couldn’t ask for better tennis competition than the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference),” said Asch.
“I loved the school. I love the coach and the girls and the atmosphere in general. There is also great academic support for the athletes. I am going to have to play on a high level really consistently.”
PDS head coach Ed Tseng admires Asch’s consistent excellence. “That is very special,” said Tseng, reflecting on Asch’s four-peat.
“We are very proud to have her on our team and she is a great person too. Even as good as she is, she improved her game in the offseason. She improved her serve and her forehand.”
Asch’s battle-tested game made the difference in the win over Rosca. “It was no joke today; Samantha’s experience really came through,” added Tseng.
“Without knowing the score, you would say they are pretty even from watching them. I think Samantha’s experience helped her play the big points better and stay focused on her game plan.”
While PDS had hoped to repeat as MCT team champions, Tseng was happy by how his players performed at the county competition in taking fifth.
“I am proud of how everyone performed,” asserted Tseng. “We just focus on giving our best and have fun. You need a little luck as well. We set the goal to win it again but we also knew it is sports and anything can happen. It is a little disappointing but not that much; nobody is going to win every match in every tournament.”
Some bad luck befell second singles player Renee Karchere-Sun as she was hampered by a sore wrist in taking third in her flight.
“She took last week off because of her wrist so her timing was a little off,” said Tseng.
“That last match she played was fantastic, she is a great player. It is just unfortunate in her semifinal match she wasn’t on her game. If she had been on her game, it would have been a different result. She is a freshman and she is strong.”
The Panthers boast another strong young player at third singles in sophomore Emily Dyckman, who placed fourth in her division.
“Emily is a nice surprise because she played doubles last year,” said Tseng.
“She won a challenge match in the preseason and earned a third singles spot. I am very pleased that she got to this point. She is another great girl who leaves everything on the court. She is such a great athlete.”
In Tseng’s view, his squad can use their effort at the MCT to be better prepared for the upcoming state Prep B tournament.
“It is funny because last year we won the counties but we didn’t do great in the preps,” said Tseng, whose team hosts Notre Dame on October 11 and Moorestown on October 12 before playing at Pennington on October 16.
“So it might be a nice ending to the season to win that. It is possible, we’ll see. I think if we stay healthy, we have a chance. Because this is later in the season now, it could benefit us. We had some good competitive matches now rather than in the beginning of the season. Who knows, maybe that could give us a little momentum.”
Asch, for her part, believes the Panthers will be bringing some extra motivation in the Prep B tourney in the wake of last week’s competition.
“We are going to be hungry for it for sure,” maintained
Asch. “Last year, we weren’t as excited about it because we had already won the county title. I think this year, we are going to come looking for revenge so I think it is going to be exciting. We had a lot of good matches here, everyone played well.”