Young squad finishes hard season with high hopes and tournament play
OCT. 23, BLAKE
The girls' tennis team finished a tough season with a largely new crop of players last week, with a 5-7 record and a disappointing show in the county tournament. Because only three starters returned from the 2005 season, the entire team was forced to step up and fill the large shoes of talented graduates.
Overall, however, the team succeeded in this challenge. They consistently beat lower division opponents, as well as one fellow Division I team. "There was such a gap to fill," said freshman Deepa Chellappa. "But I think we've done the job well, as well as we could've."
Perhaps more telling was the way players and teamwork improved, even when scores didn't. "When we began playing, a ball would come by and we'd look at each other and think it was the other person's ball," said freshman Elissa Shiau. "Now," she said, "we communicate."
Senior captain Jess Cutler especially improved. Cutler was, according to coach David Ngbea, the twelfth best on the team last year. It is, he said, "beyond comprehension how she made it to fourth singles and then to the quarterfinals. She did well," he said. "She did very well, no matter what the score may indicate."
Ngbea had mixed feelings about the season. "Statistically, I'm not happy," he said. "In terms of enthusiasm, I'm happy. You could never tell they have a losing record. All we have to do is transfer that enthusiasm."
Unfortunately, the team's losing record extended to the county tournament, where all but three players fell in the round of 16.
Cutler, playing fourth singles, was the only player to advance beyond the round of 16, while Shiau and fellow freshmen Gloria Rinonos, at second doubles, lost 3-6, 3-6 in the preliminary round to Blake. After a bye for the preliminary round, Cutler beat her Richard Montgomery opponent in the round of 16 but lost to Magruder in the quarterfinals.
The preliminary round for Blair first and second doubles and third singles was held at Blair, where junior Jasleen Salwan, at third singles, and junior Amy Li and Chellappa, at first doubles, advanced.
Salwan struggled with movement but her ability to keep balls in play nonetheless delivered a 6-0, 6-1 win against Blake. According to Ngbea, Salwan played rather flat-footedly, which caused issues in the preliminary match and ultimately led her to defeat in the round of 16 against Wootton.
Li and Chellappa lost their first set against their Blake opponents but picked up their game to win the second and third sets, even through score-keeping and sportsmanship issues. In the tense match, frustration on both sides increased as the game continued and eventually interfered with play. The biggest problem the duo faced was a tendency to hit the ball to the Blake player positioned directly in front of the net, making it too easy for her to hit the ball hard and out of reach of Chellappa and Li.
At first singles, junior Bonnie Ding had a bye in the preliminary round, but lost 1-6, 2-6 to Quince Orchard in the round of 16. Junior Priyanka Gokhale, playing second singles, lost 0-6, 1-6 to Richard Montgomery, also in the round of 16. At third doubles, freshmen Sarah Tran and Tiffany Chang lost 2-6, 4-6 to Northwest.
Despite losses, however, the team improved and has a great next season to look forward to, thanks to the age of its starters. Five of the ten are freshmen. Cutler is the only graduating starter and because she plays fourth singles, according to Ngbea, her spot will be easier to fill than if she were playing first or second singles. Furthermore players will be expected to start attending clinics, tournaments and classes during the offseason, which he hopes will noticeably improve play in the future.
Amanda Pollak. More »