Jha/Kumar Duo Rallies to Win MCT 1st Doubles As PDS Girls’ Tennis Takes 2nd in Team Standings
RALLY TIME: Princeton Day School girls’ tennis players Arya Jha, left, and Tarika Kumar celebrate after winning the first doubles title at the Mercer County Tournament last Wednesday. Seniors Jha and Kumar rallied from one-set deficits in both the semifinals and the final to earn the crown. Their heroics helped PDS finish second of 18 schools in the team standings at the event.
By Bill Alden
Having prevailed in a grueling three-set semifinal in the Mercer County Tournament last Wednesday morning, the Princeton Day School girls’ tennis first doubles team of Arya Jha and Tarika Kumar appeared to run out gas in the final.
The pair lost the first set 6-1 to the Princeton High team of Caroline Tan and Denise Yang, looking sluggish and misfiring on their shots.
“It was a rough first set, we figured that the only way to win was to stop being tentative and not being afraid to miss and being afraid to lose,” said Kumar.
“Going into the second set, we wanted to make sure that our feet were moving because we felt like our energy was low. We wanted to make sure that we were more consistent and we were willing to be aggressive and take chances and take control of the match.”
Having rallied in the semis for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Saru Daway and Erika Zhang of WW/P-South, Jha had a good feeling going into the third set.
“My mindset, and Tarika’s mindset as well, was that since we were on a wave of winning in the second set, we can ride that and win the third one,” said Jha.
The senior duo ended up prevailing 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, helping PDS place second of 18 schools in the team standings behind two-time champion Hightstown in the competition held at the Mercer County Park.
“It means so much, the MCT has always been this huge challenge for me and our team,” said Kumar, reflecting on the title. “It means so much and I am so grateful to be able to win.”
Jha is grateful to have been paired with her classmate in their final campaign with the program.
“I think we both have our strengths; she is amazing at net and I am pretty strong at the baseline,” said Jha. “We balance each other out.”
PDS head coach Ed Tseng was thrilled to see Jha and Kumar go out with a county title.
“They are both great girls, great athletes, and competitors,” said Tseng, whose second doubles team of junior Guilia Gerschel and senior Emma Dries also won their flight at the MCT.
“The best thing is that they are leaders on the team. They always help to volunteer for me and the other players. They organize things, like getting hoodies for the team. That is the stuff that people remember. Very few of my players are going to go pro but they are going to remember the life lessons, the camaraderie, the community, and the culture.”
For Tseng, developing that spirit of community ultimately outweighs the final results.
“It is a family feel; that is more important than coming in first,” said Tseng.
“We are a big family, we support each other and we are having fun. I think that is a successful season. I am just proud of the team and how we support each other, win or lose.”
PDS is hoping to experience success in the upcoming state Prep B tourney.
“The important thing is getting the competitiveness and the match toughness,” added Tseng.
“Even though we are not going to face these teams in preps, just by playing a lot of matches and being put in that pressure situation will help for Prep Bs.”
No matter what happens down the stretch, Jha will always remember her final MCT matches.
“As a senior, you go in and it is your last year,” said Jha. “It is amazing to do this; I am going to really miss it next year as well.”