By Warren Rappleyea
With a pair of four-year starters at the top of its lineup and several experienced doubles players returning to the fold, coach Maria Manley has high expectations for her girls tennis team at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.
A year ago, the Bulldogs turned in a solid 10-6 mark but unfortunately played in the same division — Shore Conference Class A Central — and same group — NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 — as Manasquan High School and Holmdel High School, which went 23-1 a year ago with the lone loss coming in the final round of the Tournament of Champions. While Manasquan is moving out of the group, Rumson-Fair Haven still must contend with Holmdel, which returns its top five players from a year ago.
“Our goals are to be as competitive as possible and to be a factor in our division and the state tournament,” Manley said. “This year, we have more of an older, experienced group of players, and we’re expecting to do well.”
Camryn Short returns at first singles as she enters her fourth varsity campaign. Last fall, Short turned in a 9-3 record while regularly playing against some of the Shore’s top players. She serves particularly well, owns a strong backhand and uses her height to become a presence at the net.
Another four-year starter, Katie Foos, returns at second singles, where she posted a 10-5 mark a year ago. The senior, who is being recruited by colleges for her basketball ability, uses a powerful forehand to play a serve and volley game. Foos’ athleticism enables her to keep plays alive by returning balls that are seemingly out of reach.
Avery Cheslock has won the third singles job following a 10-4-1 campaign at first doubles. Quick and strong in the middle of the court, Cheslock has powerful strokes and is able to put balls away quickly, said Manley, who expects the junior’s transition to the singles game to go smoothly.
While the singles lineup appears set, the coach is still sorting through her doubles players. Manley acknowledged that picking up wins in the doubles pairings is especially important, as most teams are fairly strong at singles.
Sophomore Caitlin Hickey, who won eight matches at first doubles while playing with Cheslock, is likely to return to that spot. Juniors Jamie Rumage and Marion Altobelli are also contenders for first doubles. Both players did well in limited action as second doubles players last fall. Two other juniors, Libby Henry and Anna Mandia, are also in the mix.
“All of our doubles girls play a similar style,” Manley said. “They all have strong serves and they’re all good at the baseline. My challenge is to get them to come to the net more often to put points away. I think they’ll do more of that as the season moves along. They just need to get a little confidence at the net.”