Tennis coach pleased with Jaguars’ efforts

BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent

The Jackson Memorial High School tennis team has had some memorable moments this season and is in position to post one of its best seasons, with a 9-4 record and six matches left coming into this week’s action. The Jaguars’ season will end on Oct. 17.

“Things have been going really well,” said coach Chris Opdyke, whose team had its best finish in the Ocean County Tournament in his 11 seasons as Jackson Memorial’s coach behind Toms River North and Toms River South. “Last year we won 11 matches and our best is 13, but overall, this is one of our best seasons in years.”

Sophomore Monica Chang, with only two losses at second singles, won the second singles flight in the county tournament. Senior third singles player Sasha Taylor was a third-place winner in her flight, as was the second doubles team of senior Emily Skowronski and junior Stephanie Orlando.

On Oct. 5, senior first singles player Kayanna Chandler competed for the third year in a row in the state tournament for individual players, losing her opener, 6-2, 6-1, to an opponent from Cherokee High School in southern New Jersey.

“She is a good baseline player with good ground strokes, and a good forehand and backhand,” Opdyke said of Chandler, who began the week with a record just above .500. Lindsay Koslowski and Lauren White, both seniors, play first doubles for the Jaguars. They played at second doubles in 2011.

With its entire lineup of singles players returning at the same positions as last season, Jackson Memorial started off fast in 2012, winning its first four matches.

Opdyke said his players came in well prepared from their off-season work.

“A lot of girls played in the off-season, taking lessons from their coaches and working out in clubs. You have to do that to be competitive,” the coach said.

Five of the seven starters are seniors.

“We’ll be doing a lot of rebuilding for next year,” Opdyke said. “We don’t have a lot on the bench, but there are a couple of good players on the junior varsity who play in clubs.”

The Jaguars’ most productive player is expected to return next season — Chang, whose only regular season loss came to a Toms River North opponent when the Mariners swept all five matches. Chang scored the only point for her team when Jackson Memorial lost to Manalapan, 4-1, in a Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament match.

Chang also won her match when Jackson Memorial lost in the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament to Rumson-Fair Haven, 4-1. The Jaguars beat Jackson Liberty, 4-1, in the opening round of the conference tournament. “She has an all-around game, a good serve and is consistent,” Opdyke said of Chang. “She’s a grinder.”

Opdyke said Taylor “mixes it up. She has good ground strokes and then comes to the net and volleys.”

Jackson Memorial has a busy schedule with six matches in a 10-day stretch ending on Oct. 17.

The upcoming schedule includes a match against Toms River South at home on Oct. 11 where a victory could put Jackson Memorial in a two-way tie for second place in the Shore Conference A South Division.

Toms River South won the first meeting, 4-1, with some close matches and Chang winning in straight sets.

“I’m really happy with the team’s performance this year,” Opdyke said. “To qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament and win a round, and to make the state tournament are goals we set at the beginning of the season.”

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