In 2011, the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team won the team title at the Mercer County Tournament but faltered at the state Prep B tourney.
After falling short of a title repeat by taking fifth in the county tournament in early October, PDS set its sights on ending the season on a high note at this year’s Prep B competition.
“We talked about the idea that we won the counties last year but then lost in the Prep B and wouldn’t it be nice if we flip-flopped it,” said PDS head coach Ed Tseng.
The Panthers certainly got off to a nice start at the Prep B tournament on October 21 as they advanced to the finals in all five flights of the competition.
While Tseng was happy with his team’s opening day performance, he knew it didn’t clinch anything.
“The important thing in the counties and prep is getting everyone through the first day,” said Tseng, whose team was locked in a two-horse race for the title with Morristown-Beard. “Nothing is a guarantee and we were not overconfident.”
But playing confident tennis, PDS outdueled Mo-Beard in the championship round on October 25, prevailing at first and second singles together with first doubles to pull out the title.
The pivotal win came at first doubles where the pair of Charlotte Zaininger and Mary Atkeson fine-tuned their partnership to win their flight.
“It is interesting, they are two singles players at doubles,” said Tseng.
“Charlotte is good on the baseline; Mary’s strength is at net. We wanted Mary going to the net as much as possible; we wanted them to dictate and be aggressive.”
Freshman Renee Karchere-Sun showed her aggressiveness as she posted a straight-set win in taking the title at second singles.
“I was very pleased with her,” said Tseng. “At the counties she had a good start but a rough match in the semis when we went indoors. She had a challenge in the finals in Prep B and stayed focused.”
Senior star Samantha Asch displayed her usual laser-like focus, ending her remarkable high school career with a straight-set win in the first singles title match.
“She had a love match but the score doesn’t indicate how close it was,” said Tseng. “She has the experience and wins the big points.”
The Wake Forest-bound Asch has given the Panthers a lot more than big wins in her PDS career.
“The thing I will remember is the leadership she brings to the younger players,” said Tseng of Asch, who won four individual county titles,
taking the crown at second
singles as a freshman and then winning at first singles the next three years.
“For her senior project, she organized a tennis charity event for Eden and raised more than $10,000. Helping the community like that is more important than all of her wins. She has great work ethic. She doesn’t want to miss a day. She loves it and she is putting in the time; that is a pretty great combination.”
For Tseng, making it two titles in two years at the helm of the PDS program left him with a great feeling.
“Whether it is the county or prep tournament, there are a lot of good teams and it is an honor to win a title,” said Tseng.
“It is exciting for me as a coach to help the players but it was even better to see their excitement at winning. As soon as they won, they were calling their parents who weren’t there. It was priceless, they will always have that experience.”