Pinelands Girls Tennis Promises a Lot of Fight
Last fall, Cassidy Buckley took the lead role on an otherwise youthful Pinelands Regional girls tennis team and she fared well. Nicole Babcock was in the third position and also had a solid season.
As things stand now, coach Sarah Ervin’s Wildcats will rely heavily on the senior and junior tandem to lead the way this fall.
“I’m hoping Cassidy has a really good season,” said Ervin, whose squad went 8-10 overall and 8-6 in the Shore Conference Class B South division a year ago. “Cassidy has improved tremendously during the offseason. So has Nicole, whose confidence is much better and her expertise on the court has increased.”
Unfortunately, Ervin has some things to sort out before the Wildcats can think about making a run for the top of the division standings.
For one, Pinelands lost two starters from last year – players who moved away during the offseason. With those moves and the resulting shakeup to what would have been a solid lineup this year, returning and new players must either take on new roles or enter the lineup and get acclimated to varsity play rather quickly.
“The beginning of the season is going to be a bit of a challenge,” Ervin said. “A lot of things are unclear at the moment. We’re not certain where everybody’s going to end up. We’ll figure it out, but we’re going to need some young players to step in and develop really fast.”
Buckley, who was 9-10 at first singles in 2015, and Babcock, who was 8-11 at third singles last fall, are likely to occupy the top two positions on the court. The door is open for several returning players to solidify the singles positions. Among them are senior Samantha Mattina and junior Samia Tariq, who together went 9-7 at first doubles last year, along with sophomore Nyah Acosta.
Should one of the three take over the third singles spot, it’s very likely the other two will play at first doubles, leaving the second doubles positions open for a quartet of newcomers: senior Ashley Miller, junior Carly Iverson and sophomores Fallon Hutchinson and Meghan Houchstuhl.
“I definitely have the option to keep Sam and Samia together at first doubles, and that could be the best option for us to take,” Ervin said. “But we’ll see what happens. We have a lot of girls willing to do the work to get better, and we have the capability to still be competitive in the division.”
Of course, the B South division is never an easy one to win. Donovan Catholic is typically near the top of the heap every year. Barnegat and Manchester also could be in the mix this season.
But another big factor lies in Lacey, since the Lions are moving back to the division after eight years in A South. Lacey is expected to have its top two singles players back this season, but it lost five seniors who comprised third singles and both doubles squads.
“Our division is going to be tough again,” Ervin said. “But we’re going to do what we’ve got to do to get better and fight it out the best we can.”