September 13, 2023

Coming Off Unexpected Trip to State Final Last Fall, PHS Girls’ Tennis Looking to Maintain Winning Ways

POWER HITTER: Princeton High girls’ tennis player Lada Labas warms up before a match last fall. Junior Labas is back at second singles for PHS this season. The Tigers, who improved to 2-0 with a 5-0 win over Hightstown last Monday, play at Hamilton West on September 13 and at WW/P-North on September 15 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on September 18 at Mercer County Park Tennis Complex. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Working five new players into its lineup last fall, the Princeton High girls’ tennis team appeared to be heading into a transition season.

Exceeding expectations, PHS caught fire down the stretch, winning the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 3 sectional title and advancing to the Group 3 state championship match on the way to a 15-3 season.

Heading into the 2023 campaign, the Tigers are again dealing with some roster turnover as it has lost a singles star and two doubles standouts from last fall but PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert is confident that the program will maintain its winning tradition.

“We bring back a strong core, we certainly hope to have a great season,” said Hibbert whose squad started the season with a 5-0 win over Steinert on September 5 and followed that up with a 5-0 victory over Hightstown last Monday.

“There are a lot of strong teams in this area as well — we can’t look overlook anybody. We need to just come out each day and do the best we can and hopefully have another strong season like we did last year.”

The Tigers feature a strong addition at first singles in freshman Phoebe Decker.

“She has a very consistent game,” said Hibbert of Decker. “She constructs points well and seems like she will fit well in our lineup. We lost Johanna (Roggenkamp), we knew she was only going to be with us for a year. We were sorry to see her go, having Phoebe come in has been a pleasant surprise.”

Hibbert is happy to have junior Lada Labas at second singles.

“Lada has two years of singles experience so hopefully that will help her in tough matches,” said Hibbert. “She has been there before. She always brings power to the game.”

Sophomore Katie Qin brings a good game as she returns at third singles.

“Katie has a year of experience there as well,” said Hibbert. “She has worked on her game to improve her power and consistency.”

The pair of junior Maya-Alexandra Todorov and sophomore Ashna Bushan will give the Tigers plenty of experience at first doubles.

“Maya and Ashna have teamed up, they both played doubles last year for us last year,” said Hibbert. “Ashna has worked really, really hard on her game in the offseason. She has played a lot and has really dedicated herself to tennis. Maya played first doubles last year, she and Ashley Chen had a great season at first. Ashna had a great year at second with Sophie Miller. Both of their partners graduated so they are teaming up this year. I think they have the potential to do really great things.”

At second doubles, senior Scarlett Cai and freshman Sophia Bruhn are showing the potential to do well.

“This is Scarlett’s first year on varsity, she has been working hard and has just been a little bit out of the mix,” said Hibbert. “Sophia worked hard to come in and break into the lineup. The two of them seemed to have good chemistry in the preseason matches. It is a little early to tell if they can click. You need time playing with your partner to figure what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. I think they have the potential to be a solid second team for us.”

With the Mercer County Tournament starting on September 18 at the Mercer County Park Tennis Complex, Hibbert is hoping her squad can click at the competition.

“It is really hard to know, I know WW/P-North and WW/P-South bring back strong teams from last year,” said Hibbert, whose team plays at Hamilton West on September 13 and at WW/P-North on September 15 to tune up for the MCT.

“PDS is strong, the private schools are all right in the mix. Pennington has a very strong team. I think it will be a very competitive tournament as it was last year. A lot of it really falls to the seeds and how they play out, as they say the luck of the draw. Last year we were unfortunate with some of our draws. We faced seeds very early, and we didn’t place as well as we could have. Yet when we were able to go head-to-head with some of the teams, we were able to beat them.”