Surpassing expectations last fall, the Princeton High girls’ tennis team produced a season to remember as it went 20-1 and advanced to the Group III state championship match.
Picking up where it left off, PHS opened its 2013 campaign by breezing past Allentown 5-0 last Friday, winning all five matches in straight sets and losing only four games in the process.
“Any time you get the first win of the season it is good,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, whose team improved to 2-0 with a 5-0 win over Hightstown last Monday. “The girls want to duplicate or exceed last year’s success.”
A major factor in PHS’s success is the play of sophomore Christina Rosca at first singles.
“Chris is looking strong,” said Hibbert. “She does everything well. I think she has a year of experience of high school under her belt and another year of tournaments. She has played a lot of tough matches. She enjoys being part of the team, tennis is such an individual sport. Our goal this year is to put together a strong lineup to supplement her.
In Hibbert’s view, junior Rory Lewis gives the team a strong performer at second singles.
“Rory has worked hard every year,” said Hibbert. “As a freshman, she was close to being in the lineup but we had six seniors that year so it was tough. Last year, she was a little nervous in her challenge matches. As soon as the year got started, she clicked with Maddie [Cahill-Sanidas] at first doubles. Playing with Maddie helped her game and gave her confidence. If you would go by the courts in the offseason, there was a good chance that she was out there playing. She has worked really hard on her game and she is ready to play.”
Junior Katelyn Hojelbane is ready for a another season at third singles. “Katelyn played there last year,” noted Hibbert. “She gives a lot of strength to our singles lineup. She has a year of experience in that spot and hopefully that will help.”
As the season gets underway, Hibbert is still searching to find her strongest options at doubles.
“Our doubles is a work in progress; we have four players I am going to start with and I have others nipping at their heels who have strengths and weaknesses,” said Hibbert, noting that senior Allison Hubert, sophomore Chenchen Wang, junior Zhenia Dementyev, sophomore Nikhita Salgame, freshman Elise Gerdes, freshman Brina Suppiah, and sophomore Gillian Samios are all in the mix.
“I have an idea of how we are going to start the season. There is always a possibility of changing the lineup. We are hoping to get the doubles pairings that will complement singles. Our strength has typically been our depth. We have a lot of good players.”
In Hibbert’s view, getting the doubles pairings right will go a long way in determining whether PHS can make another deep run in the state tourney.
“The doubles is the key to our success,” said Hibbert, whose team hosts Robbinsville on September 12 before playing at Hamilton on September 16.
“It is easy to come up against a team with one or two strong players. We have that point at the top of the lineup. The doubles coming together is a key; it is important to be consistent. I feel our second and third singles can do well but it is important to have depth at doubles.”