Girls tennis starts season 6–0 with returning head coach and reshuffled lineup

photo by Caroline Tan

In the 2016–2017 season,  PHS girls tennis overcame the loss of five graduated seniors and the temporary absence of Head Coach Sarah Hibbert to win their first sectional title since 2014. Last season, the team finished with an overall record of 17–3, with its sole losses belonging to Mercer County Tournament champions Hightstown High School and Tournament of Champions semi-finalists Ridge High School. With Hibbert returning to her role after her maternity leave, the team looks to also challenge for the Mercer County Tournament title.

Although the team has regained its head coach, they lost former first singles player Samantha Singer ’20 before the season started. When second singles player Sydney Vine ’19 departed three matches into the season, the team was forced to reshuffle. Their new young roster comprises of four new faces to varsity — second team doubles Denise Yang ’18, second singles Helen Bennett ’18, first doubles Sora Sato ’20, and first team doubles Caroline Tan ’19. The team has complemented their fresh roster with two new captains, Bennett and Yang. Spencer Watts ’20 also made a jump from third singles last year to first singles this year. Watts has led the team to its undefeated record, going 6–0 in matchplay.

“[Bennett] has been a great captain, trying to make sure all of the new players feel included, and [Watts] is a great leader on court and off, giving the newer players a level of game to strive towards,” said Hibbert.

With Hibbert back at the helm, the team has started the season with a 6–0 record, including notching two wins against conference rivals West Windsor Plainsboro High School South, who tied the team for second at last year’s Mercer County Tournament and were lost to Princeton with a score of 3–2 in the Group 4 sectional title match.

“We were obviously pleased to be able to beat a long time rival, but we have to continue to look forward and improve. As we’ve had to change our line-up, nothing’s guaranteed, though we’ll continue to work as hard as we can.” Hibbert said.

photo by Caroline Tan

In the team’s most recent match, PHS and West Windsor High School North put their undefeated records on the line, vying for the first seed in the Central Jersey Group 4. Princeton maintained their spot at the top with a 3–2 victory. The team now eyes their next challenge — Hightstown High School and the MCT title. The reigning champions Hightstown took the title when they defeated Princeton in the second and third singles finals. The team will tackle their challenges with their head coach back, a new roster, and undefeated momentum.

“Same as ever, we are going to go in strong and confident in our prep. So far we’ve gone six for six, and we have no reason to doubt ourselves now,” Bennett said.

The team cites Hibbert as a strong, emotional leader during their matches.

“I feel that she really understands how committed we are to tennis; she knows how to communicate and deal with us. During matches, she’ll give us advice and she’s a calming presence,” Bennett said. “During matches or after [a] loss, I can come to her, and she’ll help me pick myself up from the loss.”

Though the team is entering the postseason with a cast of new players and leadership, it intends to retain its sectional title and carry on last year’s success.

“It’s a bit of a rebuilding year,” Hibbert said, “but we still have strengths, and we’re going to have a successful year.”

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