WEST WINDSOR: Pirates reclaim MCT crown

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Claudia Siniakowicz spent a year away from high school tennis working on improving her tennis game. The West Windsor-Plainsboro High South senior returned to the lineup this year and looked just as strong as when she left. On Wednesday she captured her first Mercer County Tournament first singles championship and with it helped the Pirates earn a team championship.
“I wasn’t specifically thinking about it, but once I joined the team I thought I could try to avenge the time I lost in the finals,” said Siniakowicz, who lost in the first singles final as a sophomore to Princeton’s Christina Rosca.
Siniakowicz dropped the first set to Princeton Day School’s Renee Karchere-Sun but rebounded for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win in an well-played and entertaining final. Her title at first singles was one of three flight titles earned by the Pirates, who finished with 28 team points to outdistance Princeton, which was second with 21.5 points.
Caroline Zhou, who had won the third singles title as a sophomore two years ago, captured the same flight again this time around, topping Hightstown’s Rithika Yadav, 6-4, 6-3. The Pirates also picked up a title at second doubles, where Manogna Konduti and Michelle Wang topped Natalie Sun and Isfahani Sadeghi of Peddie, 6-3, 6-3.
“This is nice,” WW-P South coach Carla Crawbuck said. “The girls work hard. We had some close ones. The girls are all doing well and they are happy. We are going to do one step at a time. Princeton is tough. They are always fighters.”
The Pirates’ Angela Weng fell in the finals at second singles, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to Hightstown’s Sahithi Muthyala, while the first doubles team of Stephanie Ji and Kim Wang fell in the finals to Princeton’s Rachel Kleiman and Nikita Salgame, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4. The Pirates, who were seeded first in all five flights, reached the finals in all five flights.
“We won when I was a freshman and a sophomore and last year we were in second place so it’s nice to win it again,” Zhou said. “We knew we could have done better last year. One of the girls from last year messaged me and said her mom saw all five of us were top seeds and she couldn’t be more proud. So it was nice. It gave us confidence.
“On Monday when we were waiting for the matches, another team started talking about how they wanted to see South play, meaning they wanted to see really good players play, and that made me so proud of them.”
Siniakowicz led the way with her title at first singles. She dropped the opening set to Karchere-Sun but rebounded to win the first five games of the second set before taking that one, 6-3. In the third set most of the games were close, but Siniakowicz pulled away and won all six games.
“In the first set she started off by winning the first game,” Siniakowicz said. “I kind of got in there a little bit but then I started getting a little impatient and I started going for too much and I would hit it out. She hit well in the second set.
“Before the second set I went to the bathroom, recuperated a little bit, and got some fresh air. I was up 5-0. But then she stepped up and got three games and I just thought I had to win the set. Then in third set I just told myself I had to be patient and it ended up working out for me.”
Siniakowicz lost to Rosca in the finals as a sophomore. Rosca went on to win the state singles championship that year.
“It didn’t really hurt because I played Christina,” she said. “We were friends because we used to play at the same club and I knew she was a little better than me and would probably win. So I just went out there and played the best I could.”
Being back with the Pirates has helped her game and having her back in the lineup has helped the Pirates.
“I find that this team tennis gives me more confidence,” Siniakowicz said. “A lot of times in USTA matches I would only sign up for really high level tournaments and I wouldn’t necessarily have that many wins. So coming out here and being able to play girls of all different levels it helps build my confidence.”
Added Crawbuck: “I had a lot of confidence in her. She is really enjoying her time here. It is her senior year and she is relaxed and enjoying it.” 