By Warren Rappleyea
The revamped girls tennis lineup at Old Bridge High School is off to a 2-2 start, as the Lady Knights look build on last fall’s 12-8 campaign and contend in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division.
Coach Craig Wood’s team dominated New Brunswick High School in a 5-0 win Sept. 12. Pauline Kharkover won for the third time in three outings at first singles, while Ruhi Shah and Brianna Quezada evened their records at second and third singles, respectively.
Previously, the Lady Knights defeated Piscataway Township High School and fell to Monroe Township High School — both divisional foes — and also lost a 4-1 decision to Metuchen High School.
“Three of our starters graduated and another moved to California, so we’ve rebuilt our lineup,” Wood said. “Several of our girls are new to varsity competition, so they’re adapting as we go.”
With Kharkover in the top slot, Old Bridge can count on a competitive match. The 5-foot-11 junior plays in tournaments throughout the year and reached the third round of the NJSIAA singles tournament last fall when she went 20-2 overall. Her lone loss this season came against Metuchen’s Erika Rems in three sets.
“Pauline loves to volley, but she really doesn’t have a weakness,” Wood said. “She has an excellent serve and is just a strong all-around player. She works hard to constantly improve, and it shows in her play.”
Shah, who moves up from second doubles, likes to play a baseline game. The sophomore owns a solid forehand and is also a threat with a two-handed backhand. Quezada, a senior who played first doubles a year ago, has proved to be a difficult opponent at third singles thanks to her ability to run balls down and keep them in play. Wood noted that both players worked during the offseason to prepare for the move to singles.
Senior Marwa Awad and sophomore Vita Bankauskas, both of whom moved up from the junior varsity team, have also gone 2-2 at first doubles. Wood has used two tandems at second doubles. Junior Gwen Marchi and sophomore Diya Patel won against New Brunswick and lost a tough three-set match to Metuchen. Seniors Emily Jacobsen and Ashley Cohen have been competitive despite an 0-2 mark. Junior Sarah Dean, who is expected back shortly following a wrist injury, will also see action as a doubles player.
The Lady Knights were looking to get over the .500 mark Sept. 14 when Old Bridge was scheduled to travel to division rival Edison High School. On Sept. 15, Wood’s team hosts St. John Vianney High School in a non-conference match.
“I think that we’ll get better with each match,” Wood said. “The girls have been working hard. We have some talented players, and we expect to be competitive.”