In athletics, losses can be as valuable as wins—a concept understood by the PHS boys tennis team that treats every match as a learning opportunity. The team’s loss in the third round of the state tournament last year serves as a primary motivating factor this season.“Our number one goal is to do better than we did at the state tournament [last year, and] maybe win our state sections this year,” said Rishab Tanga ’15.
In addition to its motivation prompted by its loss at states, the team’s reputation for winning 15 division titles in the past 20 years provides extra incentive to do well each season. “Overall there is always pressure specifically at Princeton because it is a program that has consistently done well. Last year we won our division and we’re probably expected to win our division again this year,” said Assistant Coach Christian Herzog.
The team vows to start off its season with a new lineup and a heightened focus. The players and coaches have set their sights on a specific game that could serve as motivation for the season. After their loss at the state tournament against Wall High School last year, the Little Tigers are determined to beat the team this season. “Any defeat serves as motivation, but the previous year we beat [Wall], so we have a rivalry with them and that will fuel us even more,” Tanga said.
The match against Wall was a season-defining moment that came down to bad luck and not playing “smart” enough, according to Tyler Hack ’15. This year, the players have made it clear that they are intent on learning from their mistakes and will try to avoid repeating them. “Our final match in states last year was an intensely close match,” Hack said. “Those of us who have played them before will definitely want the chance for revenge, so the only way to do that will be to play smart deeper into the tournament.”
According to Herzog, the pressure on the team to win a divisional title has not negatively affected the players in the past. “Pressure doesn’t tend to be something that really bothers us. In fact, [we] are pretty relaxed in terms of that frame of mind,” Herzog said.
Another component that could potentially affect the season’s outcome is the team’s adjustment to its lineup. “The main challenge is replacing the individuals that we lost as seniors,” Herzog said. “But … we have some very strong freshmen coming in. So as far as our lineup, it should be considerably stronger than last year.”
“We faced some injuries last year causing our lineup to change match to match, which this year shouldn’t be a problem,” Hack said. With the more consistent lineup, the team expects to be able to pick up momentum more easily and build unity within the team for the upcoming season. Tanga stressed the impact of unity in terms of winning tennis matches and also building friendships. “I met some of my best friends from the tennis team freshman year, and they’ve continued to be some of my best friends until senior year,” he said.
In addition to the adjustment in its lineup, the team faces issues in scheduling as a result of delays caused by weather. Prior to the start of this season, the players expected the effects of winter weather to delay their preparations. As a result of the snowy conditions at the beginning of March, the team feels that its fitness preparation has been greatly hindered. “There [was] still snow on the courts, so we … [had] to use a lot of time meant for conditioning and getting in shape [to clear the courts],” Herzog said.
According to Herzog, the snowy situation earlier in the month will not stop the team from striving for the best. “We’re looking for [a] division championship,” Herzog said. “Even if we fall a little short, we want to be extremely competitive.”