Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 40
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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SLAMMING SAMI: Princeton Day School sophomore girls’ tennis star Samantha Lieb slams a forehand on her way to winning the first singles title last week at the Mercer County Tournament. Lieb didn’t lose a set in winning the title, which was her second straight MCT championship. Lieb’s heroics helped PDS place second in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S.

Lieb Takes MCT First Singles Crown Again, Helping PDS Girls’ Tennis Place 2nd Overall

Bill Alden

After going undefeated last season as a freshman, Samantha Lieb got off to a rocky start in her second campaign with the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis team.

The talented Lieb suffered two defeats in the first 10 days of the season, falling to Olivia Walton of the Hill School and Emma Levy of the Lawrenceville School.

As Lieb headed into the Mercer County Tournament last week looking to win her second straight title at first singles, she viewed her early season losses as a blessing in disguise.

“It is a good learning experience because you can learn from your mistakes,” sad Lieb.

“It was definitely tough because I finished my freshman year undefeated and now I already have two losses. I learned that there is definitely competition in high school tennis and that you can never let your guard down.”

Lieb certainly didn’t let her guard down at the MCT as she cruised to her second straight first singles crown, not dropping a set in the process.

Lieb’s achievement helped PDS moved up to second in the team standings, an improvement of two places over last year’s showing.

In placing second to WW/P-S, the Panthers saw Lauren Constantini finished third at second singles, Nicole Keim take second at third singles with the first doubles pair of Elena Bowen and Samantha Schaeffer finishing fourth and the second doubles team of Brittany Christian and Ariel Multak coming in third.

Lieb, who topped Hun’s Kara Shoemaker 6-3, 6-1 in the title match, thought her increased power made a big difference.

“I have been working on stepping into the ball and hitting it from side to side; it worked well for me today,” said Lieb.

“I thought I played really well, I was working on hitting my slice shot and coming forward a little bit, playing aggressively. It worked to my advantage.”

A positive mindset was another weapon in Lieb’s arsenal. “I definitely didn’t let my head down,” asserted Lieb.

“I kept my shoulders up and I hoped to win. I had a good draw because I was first seed; I had good results.”

For Lieb, seeing the rest of her teammates do well was as inspiring as her individual triumph.

“It is wonderful to help out my team,” said Lieb. “We all came to the semifinals this year which is really good for us. We have never done that.”

PDS head coach Patty Headley viewed her team’s second-place finish as a victory.

“We haven’t done that for a while,” said Headley “I don’t have any archival information but I think we usually end up around third or fourth, sometimes fifth. This is really a nice win.”

In Headley’s view, the team’s chemistry makes coaching it a nice job.

“For the most part, we have a lot of sophomores; they all get along really well,” said Headley.

“It does take work because there are a lot of different personalities involved with a lot of different ambitions and a lot of different beliefs in themselves. They all hold each other up. They comfort each other; they congratulate each other.”

It is certainly a comforting feeling for Headley to have Lieb at the top of her lineup.

“Sami works hard; she has worked hard at her game since she was a little girl,” said Headley.

“I think it is really cool to be a two-time winner of the MCT when you are only 15 years old. She just gets stronger. Kara Shoemaker put up an unbelievable fight; the score didn’t reflect the play. I don’t think that I have seen that kind of power that Sami showed in a long time.”

Headley liked the fight she got from Constantini and Keim in the other singles spots.

“Ever since Lauren has walked on the court for us, she has been a toughie,” added Headley. “Nicole is a good solid player; I can just see her getting better and better.”

The PDS doubles teams are also getting better as the season goes on. “I wish I could have them play together for two more weeks before this tournament,” asserted Headley, whose team hosts Peddie on October 1, plays at Wardlaw-Hartridge on October 4 and then hosts Gill St. Bernard’s on October 6 and Hun on October 7.

“They are both really just starting to come together as a team. I am thinking that certainly in a couple of weeks towards the middle or end of the season, both of them are going to be much better.”

Lieb, for her part, thinks that the Panthers have the team cohesion to be a force by the time the end of the season rolls around.

“I think we will do really well in Prep B,” said Lieb. “It is all about communicating and we do that very well. I think we are definitely on the same page. Last year the freshmen and sophomores were a little bit to the side but I think we are all one big family.”

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