The girls’ tennis team played in the Mercer County Tennis Tournament on Monday, September 24th, and Wednesday, September 28th.  The tournament was held in Mercer County Park, where the girls played in the first and second rounds, as well as the quarterfinals.

The tournament is split into two sections—the main draw and the back draw.  Once a player loses, they can still accumulate half-points in the back draw. Coach Richard Arnold said, “You still contribute even if you’re out of the official tournament, and you can still help your team even in the backdraw.”

Though the team did not make it past the quarterfinals on Monday, they still played in Wednesday’s conciliatory matches.  The girls eventually placed sixth out of 19 teams.

Junior Nora Binder serves during a match against Peddie. The Knights prevailed with a 4-1 win.

The girls’ tennis team decided to try something different this year.  After preseason, rather than starting off by playing the easier teams to get wins first, the girls went right after the top teams in the state.  “Playing the harder teams first was a good segue into the season because it gave all of us opportunities to use the techniques that we worked on during preseason,” senior captain Ruhani Nigam said. “We hit the ground running, and I think that it was the best way to gain momentum in our season both physically and mentally.”  By doing so, they began their season with a losing record, but were able to hone their skills even further.

The team looks to continue to improve its record in the latter half of the season.  “We’ve played a lot of very tough teams in the beginning of the year, so that’s what accounts for a lot of our losses.  They’re just too strong for us.  But we’ll be playing teams that I think we can compete against and beat in the last half of our season,” Arnold said.  The group is optimistic despite their losses against tough teams and in the County tournament.

Leading this improvement are the five senior captains.  Though five seems like a lot, the girls make it work.  Senior captain Catherine Wang said, “The five of us have a really good dynamic, especially from playing together for four years.  We work together well, and even though we have a lot of ideas, coming to a consensus is easy.”

The team faced many changes this season, with their top two singles players graduating.  Many of the girls are now playing in new positions, switching from doubles to singles or changing partners in doubles.  Freshman Melinda Mao plays second singles on varsity.  “We all have varying levels of experience on the team,” Wang said, “but we all want to work hard to make this year’s season even better.”

The biggest change came for junior Nora Binder, who jumped from singles three to singles one and is now the top-ranked player on the team.  “It’s hard knowing that you won’t necessarily win every match you play, yet sometimes it feels like there’s pressure to do exactly that because of my position,” Binder said.  “At the same time, it’s extremely rewarding because playing all the tough matches against some great first singles players just improves my game in the long run.”

The girls’ tennis team is making progress, and making it fast.  Arnold is optimistic for the rest of their season, despite placing sixth in the County tournament.  He said, “One good win will do a lot for your confidence.  Just one.  Even if you’ve had a bunch of losses, one good win just erases a lot.”

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