October 20, 2021

1st Doubles Team of Marckioni, Kim Provides a Highlight As PHS Girls’ Tennis Loses in State Group 3 Semifinal

WINNING PARTNERSHIP: Lucia Marckioni, left, and Sophia Kim celebrate the Princeton High girls’ tennis team’s run to the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title. The pair of seniors Marckioni and Kim starred at first doubles as PHS earned its first sectional crown since 2018. PHS fell 3.5-1.5 to Tenafly in the state Group 3 semis last Thursday at Mercer County Park. Marckioni and Kim provided a highlight in the defeat with a straight-set win. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Lucia Marckioni and Sophia Kim have accomplished a lot over the years playing at first doubles for the Princeton High girls’ tennis team.

The pair of seniors won the first doubles title at the Mercer County Tournament in 2019 and 2021 and went undefeated in 2020 but didn’t have the chance to defend their MCT crown as the event was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

Despite all of their success, Marckioni and Kim hadn’t been part of a sectional team title winner.

Last week, they added that line to their resume, posting a 7-5, 7-5 win over Sabrina Chang and Kirthi Chigurupati to help PHS edge WW/P-N 3-2 in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional final and earn a spot in the state Group 3 semis for the first time since 2018.

Last Thursday, PHS headed to Mercer County Park for the semis and battled hard before falling 3.5-1.5 to Tenafly.

Marckioni and Kim provided a highlight in the defeat as they came through with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Tenafly’s Zoe Han and Liliana La Pera.

For Marckioni, advancing to the state semis was particularly meaningful as a senior.

“We weren’t on varsity freshman year and sophomore and junior year the team lost in the semifinals,” said Marckioni.

“This year we were able to win the final and to come here. It is such a way to end.”

Kim, for her part, saw it as a special ending. “It is an honor,” said Kim. “It is our first time senior year, closing it off on a good note.”

In their match against Tenafly, the pair worked hard to close the deal in a hard-fought second set.

“We know that we could do it and we were just focusing on what are we good at, volleys for me, groundstrokes for Lucia,” said Kim.

“It was just playing our game. We are good at coming back. Even though we are down, we tell ourselves, we are still in it. Our mental game is strong.”

Marckioni never doubted that she and Kim would come through.

“I thought we could stick it out, we are always able to gain back the points that we lost,” said Marckioni. “It just shows how good we are and what we can achieve.”

While it was disappointing for PHS to come up short collectively against Tenafly, Marckioni was proud to go out on a high note in state play.

“It is obviously unfortunate for the team, it was not what we wanted,” said Marckioni.

“At least me and Sophia can leave here saying we did it, we could have kept going.”

PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert wasn’t surprised to see Marckioni and Kim prevail. 

“First doubles has been a highlight and a strength for us this year,” said Hibbert.

“It was a tight match but they really played gutsy tennis at the end to hold out the 7-5 win there.”

Hibbert also got some gutsy play from her second doubles pair of Ashley Chen and Monica Li, who fell 6-1, 6-4 to Kay Considine and Sujin Park, and Eva Lependorf at first singles as her match with Megan Yi was declared a draw after Li won the first set 6-4 and the second set was knotted at 5-5. 

“Second doubles tried to come through,” said Hibbert. “With their momentum from the other day, they rallied. They fought hard and fell a little bit short at the end. Eva was playing great, she battled back. I honestly thought that set was going her way when she was climbing back but unfortunately, they stopped play due to lack of time which was a little frustrating.”

Although the final result against Tenafly was frustrating, winning the sectional title was a great achievement for the Tigers.

“It is nice, especially with this group of seniors to be able to win the sectional title against a tough county,” said Hibbert.

“We avenged our loss to Hightstown [in the sectional semi] and then we were able to hold on to the win over North [in the final] who is another strong team. They have pulled together as a team. They have gutted it out and unfortunately today, it just didn’t go our way.”

In the wake of the state run, Hibbert was looking for a strong finish as the Tigers wrapped up regular season play.

“They definitely saw some good tennis today and hopefully that can help us with the matches left,” said Hibbert, whose team fell 4-1 to WW/P-South last Monday to move to 9-3 and plays at Robbinsville on October 20 and at Trenton Central on October 22.

“Overall, they put up a good fight today. We came up a little bit short and we will hope for a good end of the year.”

Kim, for her part, will be savoring her final weeks on the court with Marckioni.

“I am going to miss this, playing with Lucia,” said Kim. “We have gotten so close to each other, playing four years in a row. We have that unspoken communication.”