September 29, 2021

Highlighted by Marckioni, Kim Winning 1st Doubles, PHS Girls’ Tennis Places Fourth at County Tourney

ENCORE PERFORMANCE: The Princeton High girls’ tennis first doubles team of Lucia Marckioni, left, and Sophia Kim enjoy the moment in a 2020 match. Last Wednesday, seniors Marckioni and Kim won the first doubles title at the Mercer County Tournament for the second time. Their heroics helped PHS place fourth in the team standings at the event. In upcoming action, the Tigers have a home match with Notre Dame on September 30 before starting play in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional where they are seeded third and host sixth-seeded Colts Neck in the quarterfinals on October 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Lucia Marckioni and Sophia Kim have forged a historic partnership at doubles for the Princeton High girls’ tennis program.

The pair were teamed together as freshmen in 2018 to play doubles for the PHS JV squad.

A year later, they moved up to varsity and earned the first doubles spot. Wasting no time proving how formidable they were, Marckioni and Kim won the title in their event at the Mercer County Tournament.

Last fall, they stayed together and went undefeated but were unable to defend their MCT crown as the event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Competing in the county tourney last week at the Mercer County Park tennis complex, Marckioni and Kim finally got the chance to win another MCT title and they came through in dominant fashion. They posted four straight-set wins on the way to the crown, including a 6-3, 6-3 win over Sabrina Chang and Kirthi Chigurupati of WW/P-North in the final.

In the view of Marckioni, getting the second MCT title was worth the wait.

“It feels amazing, we feel like it is well deserved,” said Marckioni of the title which helped PHS place fourth in the team standings at the event won by WW/P-South.

“It was unfortunate last year we couldn’t have it to win. This year just means that much more.”

Kim is looking for the pair to enjoy a memorable final campaign. “It is our senior year, we want it to be the best year we have had,” said Kim.

Having faced the WW/P-North team earlier in the season, Kim and Marckioni used that experience to help them prevail.

“We have played them before, so we knew what we were coming into,” said Kim. “We just knew that we had to play our game and stay strong.”

Marckioni noted that the strength of the pair comes from supporting each other in the fire of competition.

“We just go into it one point at time,” said Marckioni. “We just help motivate each other during the game. We keep each other on track.”

Over the years, the two have developed a telepathy on the court. “It is at the point where we just look at each other,” added Kim.

“We do say things but we already know before the other person says it.”

With a state doubles tournament coming up in early October, Kim and Marckioni are hoping to add another title to their resume as they have been placed in the 5-8 seeding group for the event.

“We have been looking forward to that because sophomore year we were against the first seed in the states,” said Kim.

“We just need to maintain our goals and stay focused on one point at a time. We know each other’s weaknesses so we help each other out there.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert was thrilled to see Kim and Marckioni come through with a second MCT title.

“It is great for them, they are such a solid doubles pair, they really play so well together,” said Hibbert.

“I have been trying to think back and I don’t think I have had a team be a pair for four years ever. I had planned on splitting them sophomore year when they moved to varsity because I like putting a more experienced player with a newer player. We had two seniors and two sophomores but then I watched the two of them play together and saw their chemistry. They were a much better pairing than split apart. As players they were better as a team than individually. They just really clicked.”

The pair clicked last week, culminating their championship run with a convincing win in the final.

“In the first set of the first match, they were still getting their footing but once they got into the match they rolled for five, six sets,” said Hibbert.

“They had a bit more of a challenge in the final. It is a team they have seen before and they knew they would have to be on their game. They came out really strong. Doubles is always a bit of a roller coaster ride. With four people on the court, somebody is always going to have a hot streak and somebody is going to be off. It was back and forth, it was exciting to watch. It is a great tournament for them. It is exciting for them and for the team to win.”

PHS sophomore Eva Lependorf had a good tournament as well, taking fourth at first singles

“Eva played really hard in that first match; she played a great middle of the second set and then a couple of things just didn’t go her way and it was a little frustrating for her,” said Hibbert of Lependorf, who fell 6-2, 7-5 to Hun’s Amanda Francis in the semis.

“She worked really hard, she is a solid player for us. It is a strong county, there are a lot of good singles players out there, particularly in first singles. It will help going into states and the rest of the individual team matches.”

With the states starting next week, Hibbert believes her squad can have a strong run in the wake of their effort at the MCT.

“Overall, we had tough draws; all of the girls that went out the other day lost to the first or second seed,” said Hibbert, whose team has a home match with Notre Dame on September 30 before starting play in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional where they are seeded third and host sixth-seeded Colts Neck in the quarterfinals on October 5.

“They did go out early but it was an unfortunate draw for them. They played good matches, it was just a little unfortunate the way it wound up for them. Overall, we did have a good tournament as a team and I hope it will help us going forward.”