After finishing second at first singles at the Mercer County Tournament (MCT) last fall as a freshman and being seeded No.1 coming into this year’s tourney, it would have been understandable if Christina Rosca felt some pressure.
But Princeton High sophomore Rosca wasn’t fazed by the attention coming her way.
“I didn’t really think about it that much,” said Rosca. “I don’t usually look at draws even in normal tournaments that I play. I just go out and play each point as well as I can, so I never really felt pressure.”
Rosca ended up playing extremely well at the MCT, rolling to the title without losing a set. In the championship match, Rosca posted a 6-1, 6-0 win over Claudia Siniakowicz of WW/P-S.
“I thought my serve was very accurate this match,” said Rosca, reflecting on her performance in the final. I was really happy with how I served. Also I think I did a great job with attacking and coming to the net.”
Sparked by Rosca’s heroics, PHS placed second of 19 schools in the MCT team standings, piling up 20.5 points as it finished just behind WW/P-S, which had 24 points.
For Rosca, moving one spot up the ladder at first singles was satisfying. “I am very happy that I was able to play well this year and win,” said Rosca.
“Last year, I was a little disappointed that I lost but there was no shame in losing to Sam [former Princeton Day School star and current Wake Forest player Samantha Asch] because she was an exceptional player. I am definitely happy that I was able to play well and do it.”
Rosca has worked hard to become an exceptional player in her own right.
“I think my serve has improved a lot,” asserted Rosca. “Also I think my movement and footwork has gotten better. I am able to transition into the net more efficiently and faster.”
PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert is thrilled with what Rosca brings to the team.
“Obviously Chris was a highlight for us winning at first singles,” said Hibbert.
“She has continued working hard. She has really upped all aspects of her game. She can put a lot of pace on the ball but she does have other options to fall back on as well. She is a team player as well. She enjoys being out there, rooting for the other girls. She wins her matches and she doesn’t take off. Instead she goes around and sees who else is playing which is really nice.”
The Little Tigers produced other highlights at the MCT as the first doubles team of Allison Hubert and Nikhita Salgame took second as did the the second doubles pair of Zhenia Dementyev and Gillian Samios. Rory Lewis placed third at second singles while Katelyn Hojelbane took fourth at third singles.
“Overall, we had a good tournament,” said Hibbert. “We got four through to the finals. That’s certainly a great showing. Especially considering that the doubles were moved around, split up a little bit, and didn’t have very much warning.”
The play of Lewis and Hojelbane at singles showed the depth of the Little Tigers.
“Rory won the third place match 0 and 0; she could have played a little bit better in her semifinal match and I think she feels that way as well,” said Hibbert. “But to recover from that and turn around and play such an impressive third place match is important. Katelyn was hoping to have that happen last year but with her sliding up to second singles she was put in a tougher position. She has worked really hard.”
The PHS doubles teams were in a tough position coming into the tournament as the lineups were recently shuffled after Chenchen Wang decided to take the fall off to give a knee injury more time to heal.
“We were scrambling a little bit to put pairings together but I am really pleased with the way both teams played,” said Hibbert, whose team topped WW/P-N 5-0 in a dual match on Monday and hosts Notre Dame on October 2 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 4 and at WW/P-S on October 8.
“They both made the finals which is impressive in a tough county. We are planning on going forward with these girls since the teams did well here. We are going to try to keep these pairings intact. Their positions may swap.”
Hibbert is hoping that the MCT will help toughen up her team for another deep run in the state tournament.
“It is a lot of matches and it is good competition between the best teams in the county,” said Hibbert, who guided the Little Tigers to the Group III state championship match in 2012.
“It looks like it is one of the closer first and second place finishes. We are very pleased with that result and we hope it will help us going forward.”
In Rosca’s view, PHS has the potential to produce some good results over the rest of the fall in the wake of its effort at the county tourney.
“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence, especially the new pairings, because we didn’t really know how things would turn out in this tournament,” said Rosca.
“They were a little nervous. I think that they did really well. I think we are grouped very well and we can be a great team this year.”