By Warren Rappleyea
Several veterans return this fall as North Brunswick Township High School’s girls tennis team looks to contend for the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) White Division title.
The Raiders last won the division crown in 2013 and are coming off an 11-6 campaign and third-place showing in the White Division. Coach Cindi Totten’s girls lost a pair of matches to longtime rival and division runner-up The Wardlaw-Hartridge School, as well as two matches to division champion Monroe Township High School.
With Monroe moving to the Red Division this fall, North Brunswick and Wardlaw-Hartridge are again expected to vie for the top spot. Sayreville War Memorial High School, which moves in from the Red Division, is also expected to battle for the top spot.
One plus for North Brunswick is that the team won’t have to travel to Middlesex County College to practice and play home matches. That cost the team practice time, getting the team to and from the school. The Raiders are practicing on their refurbished home courts, which are formally set to reopen in early September.
“Last year was a rough one for us with all the travel back and forth,” Totten said. “It’s great to have our own courts again.”
The biggest task facing Totten is replacing her top two singles players, Coleen Binbinon and Komal Grover, who both graduated in June. Binbinon held down the No. 1 spot for two seasons and mirrored her team with an 11-6 record last fall. Grover went 9-7 overall, including one match on the third slot.
While the coach is still assessing her options, three juniors appear poised to challenge for the singles jobs: Carly Lodise, Abby Tan and Athmika Vaseeharan.
“All three had good records last season, and they’re all hard hitters,” Totten said. “I like the way they cover the court, and they all place their shots pretty well. As far as ability, they have what it takes; it will just be a matter of adapting to the level of play.”
Lodise saw action in the third singles slot and occasionally at first doubles. Overall, she posted an 11-6 mark in her first full varsity season and showed an ability to handle herself well in a variety of different situations.
Tan played some singles last fall but spent the bulk of the campaign playing first doubles, mostly with Vaseeharan as her partner. Tan finished up with a 12-4 overall record, with her only losses coming to divisional foes Monroe and Wardlaw-Hartridge. Vaseeharan went 11-4 — all at first doubles.
“It’s tough to make the transition from doubles to singles, but I’m confident Abby and Athmika will handle it well and develop the consistency you need in singles,” Totten said. “They’re very close in ability and they really didn’t lose too many points last year. They know how to stay focused.”
In doubles, Totten will look for another solid season from seniors Harshitha Katikala and Kelly Huang, who were North Brunswick’s second tandem in 2015. The duo went 9-6 as a pair, and Huang also won twice when she moved up to play first doubles. Senior Akshayha Dinesh, who got into several doubles matches a year ago, will likely fill a spot on the second doubles team.
“The challenge for us right now is to find that last person,” Totten said. “We have several girls who can do it, and now it’s just a matter of seeing who steps up.”
North Brunswick is set to open the season at Wardlaw-Hartridge Sept. 7.