Parker Twins Savoring Final Season at Doubles as PHS Boys’ Tennis Produces Superb 5-0 Start
By Bill Alden
Last spring, Dylan and Ethan Parker were primed to star again for the Princeton High boys’ tennis squad, having placed second at second doubles at the Mercer County Tournament in 2019.
But the twins never got the chance to team up again and build on their success as sophomores as the 2020 campaign was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had just finished the tryouts and then the season got canceled immediately,” said Dylan Parker.
“It was really devastating for a lot of the seniors especially. We kept our heads up and we kept on practicing.”
That practice paid off as the twins are getting the chance to play together at first doubles one last time as the 2021 spring season is up and running.
“It is amazing how everything has opened up and all that,” said Ethan.
“Everyone is really happy to be back, everyone was just really excited to play. Everyone was really positive with lots of energy.”
Last Wednesday, the Parker twins expended a lot of energy, pulling out a 7-5, 6-7 (7-5), 6-2 win over Lawrence High’s Suraj Kura and Rishi Kotamraju to help PHS edge the Cardinals 3-2.
In Dylan’s view, the pair drew on their maturity to come away with the win.
“It is focus up until the very last set, we were focused,” said Parker.
“We were ready and experience as well helped us a lot. We have been through so many matches together.”
That twin connection also made a difference. “We have been together all of our lives,” added Dylan. “It just really helps on the court because we are always on the same page. It helps so much.”
Ethan, for his part, pointed to the duo’s positive mindset and their deep bonds as key factors in the victory.
“Our mentality stayed strong,” said Ethan. “We always talk to each other between points and were telling each other just keep making a game. Even if they were up 40-love, we were just saying one point at a time. We know what each other is thinking, just playing so many matches together. We can just predict what the other one wants to do so we can anticipate and we can move earlier than other teams can and I think that gave us the edge today.”
With the CVC tournament coming up, Ethan believes PHS should be a strong contender in the competition, which will be conducted in a dual match team format with a bracket as opposed to the usual county tournament which features an individual champion in each of the five flights and a team score based on those results.
“It is different this year, we are fired up, we want to go as far as we can,” said Ethan.
“We want to try to win it but there are quite a few tough schools out there.”
Dylan believes the Tigers will be fired up for that event. “We are so excited for that, we have some strong players,” said Dylan.
“We have a lot of guys who are so excited to play and to play our game and hopefully make it very far in the tournament. The singles lineup is really strong, we are really looking forward to the rest of this season.”
PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert knows her players are excited to be having a 2021 season.
“They are happy to be back out on court as they spent last year in quarantine,” said Hibbert, whose team improved to 5-0 with a 5-0 win over Allentown last Friday. “They are happy to be seeing their friends and playing tennis.”
Hibbert is very happy to have the Parker twins holding down the first doubles spot in her lineup.
“They are great leaders, they are really passionate about this sport,” said
Hibbert, noting that the twins also star for the PHS boys’ soccer program.
“They are athletes
all-around and they dedicate to the team and the sport and whatever sport they are playing at the time. They are a great doubles pair. They know each other very well, they are lefty, righty, they have the communication, they hustle, they keep it positive, and they encourage each other. They don’t get frustrated with a mistake from the other, they shake it off well. They move well, they are very fast around the court, and they are good volleyers. It is nice to have consistency.”
Unfortunately, PHS has not had consistency in its lineup with players missing matches due to other commitments and outside tournament play.
When the squad is at full strength, it features sophomore Jonathan Gu at first singles.
“He has got a great overall game,” said Hibbert of Gu. “He is lefty as well which is a helpful thing, sometimes the spin is a little bit different. He is a good attacker at net, he has a good all-around game.”
At second singles, freshman Jack Ling has displayed composure.
“Jack has amazing poise for a freshman,” said Hibbert.
“You can’t tell if he is winning or losing, whether he is up or down. He just keeps it all business on the court. He works really hard, he had an amazing match against Hopewell, he had not beaten Bradley [Deeds] before in his tournaments. But he put it all together and was able to come back and win a great third set for us to clinch that match (a 3-2 win on April 20).”
Freshman Melvin Huang, the PHS third singles player, has gained some valuable experience this spring, having been forced to move up the lineup as the Tigers have worked around scheduling issues.
“Melvin battled hard today; he is our third singles and he has yet to be able to play a match at third
singles,” said Hibbert of Huang who played at first singles against Lawrence with other players gone and fell in straight sets to senior Ram Laxminarayan.
“I think having to step up and having to play these tough matches and battle these older, more experienced players bodes well for his future matches.”
Hibbert, for her part, is looking forward to the CVC tournament.
“It is like a state tournament, it is done in a team-seeded fashion,” said Hibbert, whose team hosts Robbinsville on May 5 and plays at Notre Dame on May 10 before starting play in the CVC tourney on May 12.
“It hasn’t happened before so we will see. In some ways it is nice to continue the team mentality. In some ways, though, I do enjoy the flighted tournament where each person has a chance to shine for himself.”
PHS has the talent to shine in the competition. “Our focus is winning as many matches as we can and keeping everyone healthy, trying to get our guys back out on court and trying to have a full lineup for a match,” said Hibbert, whose team clinched the win over Lawrence when freshman Jason Singer rallied to earn a 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) win at third singles.
“We have to play through adversity. Jason won his tiebreaker 9-7. For a freshman to have the mentality after losing the first set 6-1, that is a really great comeback for him. Like I said to the team, you contribute one point no matter where you are. Some days you are the victor and some days you aren’t but every day you fight hard for the team. We do our best to pull it out.”
Dylan and his brother are looking to do their best as they play their final high school campaign.
“We are just taking our time, we are enjoying every single moment we have together,” said Dylan.
“We are not thinking about the future right now, we are just living in the moment.”
Ethan, for his part, is confident that the pair can post a lot of victories along the way.
“We are just going to make the most of it every match we get,” said Ethan.
“We are just going to play it as hard as we can. We just want to win everything.”