MHS survived lineup shuffle to post a winning record

By: Rich Fisher
   Three questions will plague the Monroe High tennis team this year.
   What if?
   What if?
   What if?
   Actually, it’s the same question repeated three times for emphasis, but that’s how big a question it was. What if sophomore Marisa Jendras had remained healthy all season?
   Even with Jendras out due to illness for much of the campaign, the Falcons finished a strong 12-7 overall and 11-6 in the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Red Division.
   After losing just twice in her freshman year, Jendras’ time was limited and she still finished with a solid 9-4 record. When she was out, it forced junior Lisa Varacallo to go from second to first singles, Jackie Niu to go from third to second, and Leyna O’Neill to go from first doubles to third singles.
   The trio’s combined record in their dual roles were 10-8 for Varacallo, 11-7 for Niu and 9-9 for O’Neill.
   "I really think, had we had our standard lineup all season, we would have been in contention for second place in the division and maybe give them a run for their money," said coach Trudy Marmorek, who recently became a proud grandmother for the first time. "I think we would up third or fourth, but we really would have been much better. Considering I had to move so many people around, it was a pretty good season.
   "Lisa lost most of her matches playing at number one, or she could have been super strong at two. Same thing with Jackie. She lost most of her matches at two, or she could have been super strong at three."
   In some ways, this was one of the most satisfying seasons for the veteran coach, if only because of the way her girls pulled together.
   "It was gratifying, knowing when push came to shove and everybody was in a new pattern, that they all gave their best effort to do what they could for us to succeed," Marmorek said. "Hopefully the girls coming back will stay active over the winter season, join a club, go to clinics, play some games."
   The other doubles players were Lisa Restine, who went 10-7 at both spots, Brittany Warren, who went 12-6, Shruti Patel (11-7) and Ashley Palach (6-1). The latter three were mostly at second doubles.
   The Falcons lose Varacallo, Restine, Warren and Patel to graduation. Marmorek had kind words for them all.
   "Lisa Varacallo was a four-year varsity player," Marmorek said. "She worked her way from second doubles to second singles. She’s a strong competitor, fights hard and has good strokes. She improved tremendously as the years went by and became our team captain this year.
   "Lisa Restine was the total team player. She was strong at first singles, and had a good net game. And I was happy that Brittany and Shruti got a chance to play varsity finally. They worked nicely at second doubles."
   With a healthy Jendras returning next year, along with Niu, the Falcons should be solid at singles. The fact Niu got a taste of second singles should help.
   "Jackie will probably be second singles next year and she got a birds eye view of what it’s like," Marmorek said. "Third singles tends to be long and very slow, safe baseline play. As you move up, girls go for more shots, take more chances. Hopefully she’ll have learned from that this year.
   "I’m looking forward to next season. But I have no complaints about this year. Every did as much as they possibly could."