Tough Week Coming Up for Southern Regional Girls Tennis Squad
If the Southern Regional girls tennis team is going to keep winning at the pace it has been during the first month of the season, the Rams are going to have to do so against some tough competition during the upcoming week of play.
“This isn’t an easy week for us, for sure,” said head coach Howie Madsen, whose squad is 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the Shore Conference Class A South division. “The girls have been playing really well, and their attitudes have been great. Our doubles teams have jelled so far, and I’m really pleased with the progress of our singles players behind Kristina Pineno.”
Unfortunately, with five days off due to rainy or wet court conditions, the Rams were a bit rusty as they began a crucial stretch of matches on Oct. 3, falling short against Toms River South, 4-1 – a match in which only Pineno, at first singles, won.
“I don’t want to make any excuses for us,” Madsen said. “But we were a bit rusty. The five days off didn’t help us. We kind of lost a rhythm.”
The Rams had gotten off to a 6-0 start before a 4-1 loss to Ocean Township in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament on Sept. 20, but followed up with three victories in their next four contests, the only loss coming to Jackson Memorial on Sept. 23.
During its last two matches, Southern knocked off Toms River East, 4-1, on Sept. 26 and Barnegat, 5-0, on Sept. 27. But the Rams hadn’t played since before taking on the Indians – a team that seems to be improving with each match.
“Toms River South has been in most of their matches,” Madsen said. “Last time we played them, it was a 3-2 match. And they had been playing a lot of 3-2 matches. Now, they seem to be winning more matches.”
Indeed they are. With the win over Southern, it extended the Indians’ winning streak to four.
Of course, the brightest of the bright spots on Monday – and all season, thus far – was Pineno, who cruised to a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Brooke Adams at first singles. The win pushed the senior’s record to 12-0, and she has yet to lose a set.
“My last match with Brooke, we went back and forth for a while,” said Pineno, who this weekend will play in the NJSIAA state singles tournament at Mercer County Park in West Windsor. “I go into every match believing I can win, but I try not to be overconfident. I take things one point, one set and one match at a time, make whatever adjustments I have to make and play my game as best I can.”
Against Barnegat, Pineno won 6-0, 6-0, while Sophia Mastandrea (9-3) scored a 6-1, 6-0 victory at second singles and Rose Morizzo defeated Amber Kantenwein in a hard-fought 6-4, 0-6, 10-8 battle at third singles. Erica Cordero and Christina D’Amodio (9-3) won at first doubles, 6-2, 6-2, and Julia Drazin (7-4) and Jamie Tapia won at second doubles, 6-4, 6-2.
Against Toms River East, Pineno, Mastandrea and the team of Cordero and D’Amodio each won in straight sets, while Drazin and Tapia came back from a one-set deficit to win, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“The girls on our team are 100-percent amazing people and players,” said Pineno, the Rams’ captain. “They all help to keep the morale up, and they all play really hard at their positions. A lot of them have been playing tennis since freshman year, so the experience has helped, and that’s the reason why we’re having such a good season so far.”
But the upcoming week’s schedule will continue to challenge the Rams, as they meet up with division-leading Toms River North on Wednesday, Oct. 5, host Eastern Regional in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV tournament on Thursday, Oct. 6, and go up against Brick on Friday, Oct. 7, in what shouldn’t be a pushover match. And on Monday, Oct. 9, the Rams square off against Jackson Memorial for their second regular-season contest.
Madsen is hopeful that his Rams can maintain their winning touch, and he knows Pineno will lead that effort.
“It’s nice to have a high-quality player like Kristina at the top, leading the way,” Madsen said. “I think her success has rubbed off on the rest of the girls so far. It’s easy for them to try to emulate her because she is that good and she’s a good leader. This a big week for us, though, and we’re going to have to play our best to get some wins against the teams we’re going to face.”
— David Biggy