Pinelands Tennis Team Fights Mon Don to the EndGirls Earn Home Advantage in First State Playoff Match
Sad to say, but generally speaking the past few years have not been particularly good to the athletic teams of Pinelands Regional High School. Even the girls tennis team, usually a contender for a B South title during the first decade of the 21st century, had stumbled of late.
“About four years ago we had a very good team but then all of our seniors graduated,” said Sara Ervin, third-year head coach of the varsity girls team. “But we’re coming back. We’re 6-6 overall, but 6-3 in division.”
That’s respectable. But on Monday, Pinelands tangled with another traditional B South power, Monsignor Donovan of Toms River, and showed the Wildcats are on the cusp of something greater than mere respectability.
Visiting Mon Don defeated Pinelands to run its record to a fine 10-2. But Pinelands, by any means, wasn’t a pushover. The final score was 3-2, and a closer look reveals the match was even closer than that.
Emily Delbury, a four-year varsity player, led things off for the Wildcats, defeating Erica Spina, 7-5, 6-4, in their first singles match. Meanwhile junior Caitlyn Gobel also pulled off a two-set victory, defeating Courtney Kunzman, 7-5, 6-3, in third singles.
Amanda Anderson, a senior, stumbled in second singles, losing her first set to Mon Don’s Jean Cunningham, 2-6. But Anderson didn’t go quietly into the night. She took Cunningham to a tiebreaker in the second set where, alas, she fell, 5-7.
The visiting team’s Angelica Merone and Danielle Christen also needed a tiebreaker against Pinelands second doubles senior entry of Dana Rose Brown and Emily Wheeler. Mon Don broke a 6-6 first set tie by winning the tiebreaker, 7-1. Then they pulled away in the second set, dispatching Brown and Wheeler, 6-2.
The team score stood 2-2. That meant it was all up to juniors Julia Driscoll and Jamie Cohalan if Pinelands was to win the day. As it turned out, they had themselves quite the match against Tristan Commander and Kylie Kunzman.
The Pinelands due kept it close in the first set before falling, 5-7. But in true Wildcat fashion they roared back in the second, easily taking it 6-2. They looked a mite tired in the third set but still were fighting until the very end, when they ran out of gas and didn’t score a point in the final game, despite serving, and lost the deciding third set, 5-7.
So, it wasn’t a glorious day for the Wildcats but the girls clearly showed they are on the edge of taking a big step. They’ll have a chance to take that step soon, considering the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association released its state tournament brackets later Monday evening. Pinelands is seeded eighth in the 16-team South Jersey Group 3 Tourney, meaning they’ll open at home against the ninth-seed, Highland.
“Our strengths,” said Ervin, “are speed and eagerness. By eagerness I mean the girls are constantly trying to strengthen their games. They are very encouraging to each other and very positive.
“Our weakness is that we are a younger team (with juniors at second singles and first doubles).”
So far this fall the team’s strengths have bested its weaknesses. And a win in the first round of the state tournament would definitely be a confidence boost.
Glad to say, things are looking up.