Pinelands Regional Girls Tennis Team Improves on 2015 Record

Oct 19, 2016

Sarah Ervin, the coach of the Pinelands Regional High School girls tennis team, had some decisions to make early this fall. Two Wildcat starters from a squad that went 8-10 (8-6 in Shore Conference B South) last year had moved away in the off-season. So although Ervin knew senior Cassidy Buckley would return in the first singles spot and last year’s third singles entry, junior Nicole Babcock, would move up to fill the second singles slot, the coach had to mix and match to fill out the rest of the lineup.

Should she break up the first doubles tandem of senior Samantha Mattina and junior Samia Tariq, who posted a 9-7 record in 2015, and move one of them into the third singles spot? Was sophomore Nyah Acosta a better fit as that third singles player? And whom would she put together in the second doubles position, choosing from a pool that included senior Ashley Miller, junior Carly Iverson and sophomores Meghan Houchstuhl and Fallon Hutchison?

Ervin decided not to mess with success and kept Mattina and Tariq together.

“They just have such good communication,” she said during a recent match against Manchester.

Sure enough, Mattina and Tariq were constantly chattering in their match that day, repeatedly yelling “switch” in stereo, complimenting each other on good shots, urging each other to quickly forget an error. They ended up winning 6-4, 6-2 that day, which is fairly typical – as of Tuesday morning they had gone 12-6 for a team that is 9-9 as the season winds down.

“They are our anchors,” said Ervin, “along with Cassidy (Buckley).”

Buckley, too, has outperformed her team, matching Mattina and Tariq with a 12-6 mark.

Babcock went 8-11 at third singles last season. She has a remarkably similar 8-10 record this year with one match left despite stepping up in class.

Ervin decided to fill the third singles position with Acosta, and the sophomore has come through, playing at a 10-8 pace. The coach went with Iverson and Hutchison at second doubles, and they have gone 7-10 (Houchstuhl and Iverson teamed in one match).

So, all in all, Pinelands improved its record from last year and, with a win on Tuesday afternoon after The SandPaper goes to press, could post a winning mark. It looks as if Ervin made the right decisions.

Babcock and Mattina will have graduated in 2017, so the coach will have to do some juggling again next fall. It is a safe bet to say she is hoping none of her remaining players’ families decide to move during the off-season, making her job more difficult.

— Rick Mellerup

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