November 1, 2017

Rebounding From Defeat in Sectionals, PHS Girls’ Tennis Ends on a High Note

HAPPY ENDING: Princeton High girls tennis player Helen Bennett displays her forehand form in a match this fall. Senior Bennett enjoyed a solid final campaign as she stepped up to second singles. PHS topped Hopewell Valley 4-1 in its season finale last Wednesday to finish the fall with a record of 15-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After the Princeton High girls’ tennis team fell 3-2 to South Brunswick in a Central Jersey Group 4 sectional quarterfinal match on October 10, Sarah Hibbert feared that her players might go through the motions as they wrapped up the regular season.

Instead, PHS saved some of its best tennis for last, going 5-1 in the last two weeks of the season to end up with a final record of 15-3. “We had a strong end to the season,” said PHS head coach Hibbert.

The Little Tigers played a very strong match in its finale, defeating Hopewell Valley 4-1 last Wednesday.

“They are a very competitive team. We could have won that match 5-0, we could have lost 5-0; it depended on how everyone played that day,” said Hibbert. “It was great to see that everyone worked really hard.”

PHS got big wins at first singles from sophomore Spencer Watts and at second singles from senior Helen Bennett in the victory over the Bulldogs. Watts pulled out a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 triumph over Marissa Liu while Bennett posted a 6-2, 6-4 win over Joyce Huang.

“Those were great wins for them; they were both going against very strong players,” said Hibbert.

“Spencer lost to her in the counties. Spencer was able to come back from being down 1-4 in the third set and then love-40 on her service game at five-all. She was able to string together some great tennis and close out the season on a high note.”

Hibbert was proud of how her players rolled with the punches as they dealt with upheaval.

“Considering how much changed from last year’s lineup, I was very pleased with the way everyone played this season,” said Hibbert.

“We lost four of our starting lineup from last year and had changes right at the beginning of the season this year. They were still able to settle into their spots well. Second doubles (sophomore Sora Sato and junior Adriana Todorova) was a real highlight for us; they went undefeated in regular season play.”

The play of senior Denise Yang was a highlight this fall for PHS as she was moved into first doubles to play with junior Caroline Tan just before the county tournament.

“I knew that Denise had the potential to be a strong player and I was just hoping that she would be able to do it when the pressure was on and she did,” said Hibbert.

“She really stepped up; they took second in counties and they won a whole lot of matches for us at first doubles. For her senior year, I think it was great for her to be able to finish up her season with that kind of varsity career.”

The Little Tigers got a great finish from Bennett, who ended up thriving in the second singles spot.

“Helen went from JV last year to second singles on varsity, which is a huge jump,” said Hibbert.

“She did really well towards the end of the season. She clinched the match against Hopewell against a tough opponent and she played really well against Notre Dame. She came back and won in three sets there. She had a great year for us. She worked very hard, she was a great captain. She and Denise were great captains and leaders.”

In Hibbert’s view, PHS has the potential to make a jump next fall with five starters slated to come back.

“We have a strong core returning; we are definitely hoping for good things out of them next year,” said Hibbert, who moved sophomore Nicole Samios into the third singles spot early in the fall.

“They all got a lot of experience this year and we have a lot of competitors waiting in the wings on JV. It will be interesting to see how the team shapes up next year.”