Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 40
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
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FIRST CLASS: Princeton Day School girls' tennis sophmore star Samantha Asch blasts a forehand last Monday on her way to winning tthe first singles title at the Mercer County Tournament. Asch, who won the second singles crown at last year's MCT, didn't lose a set in moving in her run to the 2010 first singles tittle. Asch's performance helped PDS place third in the MCT team standings.

Not Missing a Beat in Moving Up to First Singles; PDS’ Asch Wins MCT Title Without Losing a Set

Bill Alden

After breezing to the second singles title last fall at the Mercer County Tournament without losing a game, Samantha Asch was primed to take things up a notch at this year’s county tourney.

Sophomore Asch has moved up to the top singles spot in the lineup for Princeton Day School this fall and hasn’t missed a beat.

“I don’t really feel that much pressure because I knew I was going to go out and play my hardest in each match no matter what,” said Asch, who is replacing PDS senior and three-time MCT champion Samantha Lieb after the latter decided to focus on national tournament play. “It is much better practice going against the competition at first singles.”

Last Monday at the Mercer County Park indoor tennis complex, Asch proved her game could withstand championship pressure at the top singles spot as she posted straight-set wins in the MCT semis and finals on the way to the title.

“It is great,” said Asch reflecting on her title which saw her beat Hun’s Katie Seitz 6-0, 6-2 in the semis and Ammu Mandalap of WW/P-S 6-0, 6-1 in the title match. “It was great last year and just as good or even better this year.”

This year’s title didn’t come without a fight. “When I play Ammu I know that the last thing she is going to to do is to give in to me,” said the unassuming Asch, whose heroics helped PDS finish third in the MCT team standings behind three-time champion WW/P-S and runner-up Princeton High.

“When I was up 5-0 in first set, she was still fighting with the same spirit as she showed when it was one-all in the second set. She is a great fighter.”

In Asch’s view, the key to her victory was the ability to finish points. “When I got an opportunity to go for a winner, I did and I made most of them,” explained Asch. “Ammu did the same thing but she just made a few more errors.”

Playing in some top-flight tournament competition this summer helped Asch’s game become more error-free.

“One of the things I was doing a lot better this summer is that I would get to every ball with my feet set and hit a good shot,” said Asch, who is currently ranked No. 20 nationally in the 16-and-under age group.

“Last year, I would get to the ball but I would be scrambling. My serve has gotten a lot better; I have more power.”

PDS head coach Patty Headley was not surprised that the precocious Asch powered through the first singles draw.

“Samantha moved up to No. 1 just fine; there is no question that she can handle the pressure of being No. 1,” said Headley. “She looks forward to it; she is going to get more competition than she did last year.”

Headley notes that Asch’s business-like attitude has helped her excel at the higher level of competition.

“Samantha works really hard to be that good; that’s what it takes to be that good,” asserted Headley.

“She’s gotten bigger and stronger. She has a strategy and she carries out her plan; that is a maturity-level thing. She goes out on the court and she goes to work. She doesn’t let any of the outside stuff bother her. She does her job and that’s it.”

PDS got good work from Nicole Keim at second singles and Samantha Schaeffer at third singles as they both took third place.

“I am thrilled with them; they both moved up from doubles,” said Headley. “Nicole is a really good athlete; she has a lot of stamina and is very strong. She works hard at her tennis. Samantha Schaeffer was always a better singles player. She was also a very good doubles player but we had the two Sammies last year and Lauren Constantini who graduated. I think Samantha is going to have a very good season at singles this year.”

Headley is confident her team can make a good run at the Prep B title. “I absolutely like the way the team is coming together; we still have a lot of matches to play,” said Headley, whose team hosts Stuart Country Day on October 8 and the Hun School on October 12. “We are playing in Prep B and it looks like both Ranney and Gill have strong teams. I think we can do well.

Asch, for her part, has gained strength from her teammates. “I don’t really think I am a leader to them but I try to show a good example and they show a good example to me,” said Asch. “I just go into every match and try my hardest and see what happens.”

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