September 29, 2021

With Francis Making Run to 1st Singles Final, Hun Girls’ Tennis Takes 3rd at County Tennis

FIRST QUALITY: Hun School girls’ tennis player Amanda Francis rips a forehand last Wednesday in the girls’ first singles final at the Mercer County Tournament. Junior star Francis ended up falling 7-5, 6-4 to Leticia Kitio of Lawrence High in the match. The run by Francis to the final helped Hun finish third in the team standings at the event. In upcoming action, the Raiders have home matches against Pennington School on September 30 and Stuart Country Day on October 2 before playing at Princeton Day School on October 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Amanda Francis found herself in a bind as she played in the second set of the girls’ first singles semifinals at the Mercer County Tournament last Wednesday.

“I was down 2-5 in the second set so I really had to battle because I didn’t want it to go to a third set,” said Hun School junior Francis, reflecting on her match with Eva Lependorf of Princeton High at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

“The first set I was really consistent; I played aggressive. In the second set, the girl really stepped up her level. I really needed to make sure that I competed hard as well.”

Francis rallied to pull out a 6-2, 7-5 win and earn a spot in the final against Leticia Kitio of Lawrence High.

Coming into the match, Francis realized she was in for a battle.

“I knew Leticia going in; my game plan was to get one more ball back and to be aggressive when I can be,” said Francis.

“I wanted to win off of my consistency because I know she can rip it and I just have to stay mentally tough.”

Francis showed her toughness even though Kitio prevailed 7-5, 6-4.

“I thought I performed pretty well, it went back and forth,” said Francis, whose second-place finish at first singles helped Hun take third in the team standings at the event won by WW/P-South.

“I held a lot of my service games so I was happy about that. Her serve is really powerful and I actually broke her serve once. I was happy about that. If I played her again, I think I should be more aggressive and try and mix it up.”

Reflecting on the progress in her game, Francis has focused on developing more variety.

“I used to play like defensively and now I am trying to mix in being aggressive with consistency,” said Francis. “I am trying to go in, take balls early, and finish it up at net.”

In the view of Francis, her dogged mentality is another key to her improvement.

“I think my mental game is my strongest because I can really get into an opponent’s head with my mindset of making one more ball and being aggressive,” said Francis. “I can get them frustrated.”

Hun first-year head coach Paul Ricciardi appreciates Francis’ mental approach.

“She plays with an incredible amount of toughness and heart,” said Ricciardi.

“She is the best competitor I have been around. She really gets the most out of her talent and tries to play every ball like it is match point.”

Francis showed that competitive fire as she battled Kitio.

“Her opponent had a lot of firepower, that was a great quality match,” said Ricciardi.

“They didn’t get the first break until 3-3 of the second set that just goes to show you the level of tennis. They were holding serve playing good quality tennis.”

Junior Sabrina Wang showed some quality as well, taking fourth at second singles

“She has been amazing too, she has no fear and goes for every serve,” said Ricciardi. “She has a toughness too, she is great at staying very calm.”

At third singles, sophomore Anna Schweer displayed some great potential in finishing third in her flight.

“She is going to do some big things for us over the next couple of years,” said Ricciardi of Schweer.

“She needs just a little bit of experience to compete with the top girls. She definitely has the strokes to be a No. 1 player in this league.”

Ricciardi is enjoying his experience in his debut season coaching the girls’ program.

“I have been really happy with taking this job, I am glad I did,” said Ricciardi, who guided the Hun boys’ program this past spring and previously coached at the College of Staten Island. “It is a good group of girls to work with.”

Looking at the team’s performance overall at the MCT, Ricciardi saw a lot to be happy about.

“It was a great tournament with 17 teams and a lot of good playing,” said Ricciardi.

“I was very impressed with my second doubles too, Phoebe Melchior and Annabelle Fu. The first time they ever played together was the tournament. They ended up losing the match for third so they finished fourth. It was a great tournament for us.”

Going forward, Ricciardi believes playing in the tournament will steel his team for the challenges it will face over the rest of the fall.

“We could take this experience and build on with it with MAPL (Mid-Atlantic Prep League) and Preps,” said Ricciardi, whose team has home matches against Pennington School on September 30 and Stuart Country Day on October 2 before playing at Princeton Day School on October 5.

“The Prep League is very tough and the MAPL is very tough but I think we are in the mix. All we can do is just keep getting better.”

Francis, for her part, is determined to keep getting better.

“I will definitely have things to work on so I will go to my coach and talk to him,” said Francis. “I am just excited to see where it goes.”