Bears look to fix troubles on court by ‘playing to win’

By Jimmy Allinder

Judging by the 5-0 shutouts John P. Stevens High School (twice) and South Brunswick High School handed East Brunswick High School’s girls’ tennis team this season, there is a gaping talent difference between the Bears and their Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) rivals.

Bears head coach Allison Clay doesn’t think so.

“Generally speaking, we’ve had a tendency to play below our potential because we’ve allowed nerves to get in the way,” Clay said. “The girls have too much talent to not be more competitive against those kinds of teams.”

Clay attempted to correct the situation by getting her players to adopt a “play to win” mentality rather than “playing not to lose,” and the strategy, she said, is paying off.

“I’m starting to see a difference in how the girls confront problematic situations,” Clay said. “They’re now thinking through difficult circumstances by focusing on their strengths and if the technique is used properly, the impact will be positive. It’s a good coaching technique because that same mentality can be used when facing adversity in life situations.”

The Bears are 8-4, with their lone defeat outside the GMC to the Dwight-Englewood School. The first singles slot belongs to freshman Phoebe Su, who is 5-3 in flight, while senior Ananya Prakash at second singles and freshman Lexi Roshkovan at third singles are both 6-3 in flight. Elizabeth Jackson and Arushi Bhatia are 4-5 in flight, and the second doubles duo of sophomores Jennifer Liu and Kerthana Manivasakan own the same record in flight.

Clay said almost all her players have benefited from private lessons and have tournament experience, so her role is to develop a winning team mentality.

Despite the disappointment of not being able to capture the GMC Red Division, the coach said her team is still optimistic about prevailing in its remaining matches, including a second match Oct. 14 against South Brunswick.

“The girls are eager to learn from their experiences and apply what they’ve learned,” Clay said.

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