PRINCETON: Panthers claim fourth straight Prep B tennis title

By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
While this one was closer than some in the recent past, the result was the same for the Princeton Day School girls tennis team.
The Panthers captured their fourth straight Prep B state tournament championship, edging Gill-St. Bernard’s for the team title at the Garden State Tennis Center in Edison. The tournament came down to the last match, with the PDS first doubles team of Devika Kumar and Tarika Kumar pulled out a close match to give the Panthers the title.
“It was very close,” said PDS coach Ed Tseng, whose team swept the doubles flights. “We were up by one over Gill after the first and it came down to the last match. Our first doubles won the first set and looked like they were in control of the second. But it went to tie break in the second set and they ended up losing and were pretty upset. But they jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third set, lost a couple games, then pulled out the win.”
The Panthers also picked up a win from their second doubles team of Anna Kovacevich and Touria Salvati, while Sydney Vine fell in the finals at second singles. Renee Karchere-Sun reached the semifinals at first singles, while Arya Jha reached the semis at third singles.
“I knew from the preseason we would be pretty deep, which is always a good thing,” Tseng said. “We have a nice feeder program with our middle school team so we are always developing depth. This year in particular it was as close as it has been so we needed every point to pull out the win.”
The Panthers have won their four straight titles in different fashions over the years. In the past they have been strong at the top of the lineup with a player like Samantha Ash. This year it was their depth that made the difference.
“We started with Samantha Ash and everybody knows Sam,” Tseng said. “And then we had Renee step up nicely at No. 1 singles and she has done a great job for us. At the same time, a win is a win or a point is a point. Whether it is Renee or Sam or at the bottom of the lineup every point counts and everyone contributes.”
Having won the previous three Prep B titles, the Panthers faced some pressure to make it four in a row. Now they’ll head into next year hoping for a fifth straight title.
“They kind of felt like that this year since we were trying to four-peat,” Tseng said. “Coach (Trevor) Campbell and I like to set the tone in the beginning of the season. We want to win and do the best we can for the for school. But we tell the players even if we lose, make sure you lost playing your game versus playing not to lose or giving up. For the most part they did that this season and the results have shown that.
“We went into the tournament pretty confident. Touria had a minor injury with her ankle in beginning of the season and couldn’t play in the Mercer County Tournament and we had Giulia Gerschel fill in and then pretty soon after MCT Touria was back. She finished the season strong.” 