September 14, 2022

Featuring a Totally Revamped Lineup from 2021, PHS Girls’ Tennis Still Has the Talent to Excel

SECOND WIND: Princeton High girls’ tennis play Lada Labas lofts a backhand in a match last year. Sophomore Labas has moved up to the second singles spot this fall after playing at third in 2021. PHS, which improved to 3-0 with a 5-0 win over Hopewell Valley last Monday, hosts Hightstown on September 14 and Hamilton West on September 16 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on September 19 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Featuring a totally revamped lineup, the Princeton High girls’ tennis team is bound to go through some growing pains this fall.

“We have got five new faces in the lineup and seven people in different positions from last year,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, who guided the Tigers to a 13-3 record in 2021 and a spot to the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals. “It will be a bit of a year for learning and growth.”

Despite all of these changes, Hibbert believes the program can maintain its winning tradition.

“I am really pleased with the new players and the talent we did have come in,” said Hibbert. “It is a new group but they are working hard. They are excited to be where they are.”

The Tigers have produced an exciting start the season, going 3-0 in the early going.

“With five new players on varsity and nobody in the same spot, it is definitely nice to have a couple of comfortable wins to open the season,” said Hibbert, whose team posted 5-0 wins over Ewing, Steinert, and Hopewell Valley in the first week of the season.

One of new faces on the squad is junior Johanna Roggenkamp, who came to PHS this year from Germany and has earned the first singles spot.

“Johanna has a nice all-around game,” said Hibbert. “She has the ability to mix up the spin on the balls and move around the court well. It is nice to have her join us.”

Sophomore Lada Labas has moved up to second singles after playing third last fall.

“Lada made it into the singles lineup as a freshman, she has powerful ground strokes and is working on her consistency,” said Hibbert. “She brings a lot of power and athleticism to the game. She now has a year of experience under her belt and is more comfortable in some of the matches.”

At third singles, freshman Katie Qin has made an immediate impact.

“Katie is very steady, she runs lots of balls down,” said Hibbert. “She has good consistency and good patience and can make the shots when she needs to. She was very steady in her matches and was able to outlast the other players.”

The pair of sophomore Maya-Alexandra Todorov and senior Ashley Chen can make all of the shots.

“Maya is a very strong player, she is coming back from a year away being injured,” said Hibbert. “She is almost 6 feet tall, she has a good serve, a good volley, and just a good all-around game. Ashley is one of two returners with Lada. She has that year of experience and won a crucial match against North that carried us to the win in the sectionals. She has doubles knowledge and experience. I think she and Maya will make a good pair, they complement each other.”

At second doubles, senior Sophie Miller and freshman Ashna Bushan are looking to develop consistency.

“Sophie was like our eighth player last year, she and Ashna are going to play in that second spot for now,” said Hibbert. “They have good groundstrokes, they are strong players. Sophie has some of the experience at doubles as well. She knows where she should be and how to best set up a point. The two of them are working together to make a good partnership.”

Hibbert likes the vibe around the squad as it heads into the Mercer County Tournament, which starts on September 19 at the Mercer County Park tennis complex.

“They have all clicked and have had fun getting started with the matches and everything,” said Hibbert, whose team hosts Hightstown on September 14 and Hamilton West on September 16 as it tunes up for the MCT. “I am hoping for the best at the MCT, I am hoping they can come through.”