PRINCETON: Bennett’s hard work pays off for PHS tennis


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By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Helen Bennett spent the first three years of her Princeton High tennis career making the slow climb up the JV ladder.
Now a senior, Bennett has established herself as a fixture in the singles lineup for the Little Tigers, realizing that her hard work and determination have paid off.
“I played two years on JV and then last year as a floater between varsity and JV,” said Bennett, who is 4-2 overall as a singles player this season for Princeton. “This is my first year playing singles for the team. I play a lot outside of school and I have worked a lot with my coach on improving skills that I have needed to work on over the years. He’s helped me expand my number of serves. The team has been very encouraging and coming up with all of these older girls and being a senior now I definitely have a big spot to fill.”
Bennett started the season playing third singles for Princeton, where she posted victories as the Little Tigers won tough matches against Notre Dame and West Windsor-Plainsboro South. She moved up to second singles due to a lineup change and has split her four matches since moving up one spot on the ladder.
“She worked really hard on her game in the offseason,” said Princeton coach Sarah Hibbert, whose team improved to 6-0 with a 3-2 decision over West Windsor-Plainsboro North on Monday. “She put in a lot of time working on her singles. She had made her way to third singles and she has now moved up to second singles due to a change in the lineup.
“She works hard and is a captain. She is such a good kid. She has improved quite  bit.”
Bennett worked her way up from the bottom of the JV team as a freshman to the top of the JV team as a junior. She also filled in for the varsity last year, going undefeated in five matches as a  doubles player.
This year she has not only made the transition from junior varsity to varsity, but from doubles to singles as well.
“This is my first year with singles,” Bennett said. “Coming into the season I wasn’t expecting to play singles. But after the challenge matches, it worked out and I am enjoying it so far.
“It is a change because I feel like the level is different but not just because they might be better. Also because playing by yourself is so different than playing with someone else. The mental game is also different because when you have a partner you can share your thoughts and nerves about the match. But when you are by yourself you have to talk yourself thorough it.”
Bennett has certainly made the most of her opportunity to play singles this season, She has helped solidify the Princeton lineup as the team heads into the Mercer County Tournament, which begins on Monday at Mercer County Park. Her hard work has put her into the position to get to play at the varsity level, which has been a goal throughout her career.
“I made it a goal,” Bennett said. “I started playing more tournaments and worked a lot on my game. The transition from third to second singles is actually a more difficult transition than from doubles to singles. I have been training for singles outside of school. But being able to tell myself that I am ready to play second and keeping my mind under control during the matches is a little more difficult because I know the girls I am playing now are a little better than the ones I was playing before.
“I am excited about the county tournament. This will be my first time playing in it and I am looking forward to it.”
Hightstown, which won the tournament a year ago, is the favorite again for the MCT. But Princeton will give its best effort to compete. Sora Sato and Adriana Todorova pulled out a three-set win at first doubles to win the match for Princeton against West Windsor-Plainsboro North.
“We’re going to work as hard as we can and see what happens,” Hibbert said of the MCT.

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