The PHS boys tennis team gathers outside PHS’s five blue tennis hard courts to hear Head Coach Sarah Hibberts’ rundown of the practice and pep talk. Her motto is, “Focus, feet, confidence, win,” and this season, the team is looking for two wins: one at the Mercer County Tournament and one in its Colonial Valley Conference division.
Last season, the team ended with a Group 3 sectionals title and second place at the Mercer County Tournament, where the team lost by 1.5 points to West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South.
According to Eric Lin ’17, the team has new expectations this season because last year’s younger players continue to perform well. “The previous freshmen that came in [last year], Noah [Lilienthal ’18] and Kevin [Yang ’18], were really good and made varsity, and this year we’re expecting the same,” Lin said.
Lilienthal went on to win the MCT finals for first singles and was recognized as both the CVC and The Times of Trenton Player of the Year for 2015.
Besides the MCT and CVC, the team’s goals also include advancing as far as possible in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament. Last year, the team lost to Millburn High School, the NJ.com Boys Tennis Team of the Year for 2015, 5–0 in the semifinals.
On March 7, several new players stepped onto the PHS tennis courts to compete for the seven open spots on the boys varsity team. Jonathan Itzler ’17 credited Coach Hibbert with the strong makeup of the team at the end of it. “During tryouts, it’s not always about who wins and who loses—it’s who she knows will play the best in a competition situation,” he said.
Among the new players were Simon Hwang ’19, as well as Jerry Gu ’19, who was the seventh-highest ranked freshman in New Jersey on the Tennis Recruiting Network as of March 21.
According to Lin, these new players will help make up for last year’s loss of leading singles players. “[We’ve] lost [Co-Captains] Rishab [Tanga ’15] and Tyler Hack [’15] … but at the same time, a lot of good players are coming in this year,” Lin said. “We’ve found that as time goes on, a lot of new younger people will help lead the team and make a lot of contributions.”
The players’ skills contribute to the tight–knit atmosphere of the team, and a majority of the varsity players train with private coaches outside of school practices to improve even more. Yang also attributes Hibbert for the team’s positive outlook. “She’s really calm all the time and gives really good advice—especially in really important situations,” Yang said. “It’s a really good atmosphere. We’re really happy all the time. We just try to go out and have fun.”