Ed Tseng knew that his Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team faced a major challenge in its bid to win a second consecutive state Prep B title.
“One of the things that make it hard to repeat is that there are a lot of good teams and players out there,” said PDS head coach Tseng.
“You are facing the unknown and that can be scary. The girls were excited. I thought we had a good chance if we played pretty well and gave a good effort.”
Gill St. Bernard’s put a scare into PDS as the two teams were tied for first place coming into the championship round last Thursday.
“I was glad to see us do well on Sunday,” said Tseng, whose team advanced to the finals in four of the five flights of the event.
“We were tied with Gill for first although I would have like to have been in the lead. We knew we had to come out on Thursday and play well.”
The PDS players were anxious about their prospects as they headed into the last day of the competition.
“I was getting all the questions from them about how many wins did we need to get the title,” said Tseng.
“I told them there were so many different combinations that they just need to go out and play a good match and see where the numbers fall.”
The numbers ended falling PDS’s way as the Panthers tallied 11 points to Gill’s 10 in winning their second straight Prep B crown.
Wins by junior Maria Martinovic at second singles and classmate Emily Dyckman at third singles made the difference for PDS. Martinovic topped Sharon Jin of Gill 6-2, 6-0 while Dyckman defeated Stephanie Fuentes 6-3, 7-5.
“Maria and Emily were on courts right next to each other so I was able to watch them both,” recalled Tseng.
“They both got off to similar leads. I think Maria had some confidence going into the second set; she got into a zone. Emily was up 5-4 and serving for the match but lost that game. She is a fiery player and she was able to win those final two games to get the win.”
PDS got some fiery play in defeat on Thursday as first singles player Renee Karchere-Sun fell to Krishna Patel of Gill, 6-1, 7-5 while the second doubles team of Hope Boozan and Touria Salvati lost in three sets, as Nikita Isrania and Caroline Friezo of Montclair Kimberley prevailed 2-6, 7-6, 6-3.
“Renee had chances to pull out that second set but the Gill player was able to win it,” said Tseng.
“If it had gone to a third set, anything could have happened. The second doubles won the first set and then lost the second. I think they were deflated coming into the third.”
At the end of the day, though, everyone on the PDS squad was pumped up. “Once we won, it was awesome,” said Tseng.
“It is great to see Maria and Emily win individual titles but it is so much more special to win as a team. Samantha Asch [former PDS star and current Wake Forest player] won a lot of individual titles but she said she enjoyed the team titles a lot more. It was a good show of mental toughness, going into the final day we were tied and anything could happen. They need to give a full effort and they did that.”
In Tseng’s view, an all-for-one and one-for-all attitude helped pave the way to victory.
“I think one quality that made this team special is that we have a lot of players with experience, either in tournaments or for the school team,” said Tseng.
“They are used to pressure and playing in big matches. The more experienced players can help the younger players. The younger players bring a fresh approach and excitement and they help the team with that attitude. It is a nice big family. As a team, we would do anything for each other.”