Princeton High girl’s tennis looks to continue success

Princeton High School senior Spencer Watts (center) during practice on Aug.26 in Princeton.

There will be new starters but the successful results may continue to be the same this girls’ tennis season for Princeton High School.

Princeton comes off a strong 2018 season when the Little Tigers finished 14-2. Princeton’s season came to an end when it fell to Hightstown High School, 5-0, in the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional tournament’s semifinal round.

Princeton also reached the Mercer County Tournament final, where it was also defeated by Hightstown, which won its third straight title.

This season the Little Tigers will be guided by senior Spencer Watts, who will play at  first singles, sophomore Bella Lependorf at second singles and senior Nicole Saminos at  third singles.

“We are happy to have Spencer (Watts) back this year. Especially with the loss of six total seniors, for who were in the starting lineup. She will step back in to the number one position and be a great asset,” said Princeton coach Sarah Hibbert. “She brings her power and consistency. Her personality is great as well to have.”

She said Lependorf is great to have stepping into the singles role.

“She came in from first doubles last year. She and her partner had a great year, where they were county champions,” Hibbert said. “She plays a lot of tournaments and has a steady and consistent game.”

She explained that Saminos is a solid and focused player who rounds out the singles side for this year’s team.

“She was third singles for us last year and had a great season there. She helped us win several and important matches,” Hibbert said. “The experience and stability she brings is a nice thing to have at third singles.”

On the doubles side, Hibbert is still trying several pairings and challenge matches before the team’s opener with Lawrence High School on Sept. 4 in Princeton.

One of the players who will play doubles is senior Sora Sota.

“Sota will figure into our lineup as she has been in our doubles lineup the last couple of years. She is a steady presence for us,” she said.

Hibbert said she hopes the team this year can be a deep team.

“We want to be strong with the singles and all the way down to the doubles teams,” she said. “When working with the girls I focus on telling them that you get one point for first singles and you get one point for second doubles. Anywhere you are in the lineup you contribute a valuable role to the team.”

Finding the doubles pairings for this team will be key for Hibbert.

“Doubles really do wind up being the crux of the lineup in some ways. Anyone can have a good first and second singles player, but you have to have the depth to pull out three matches all the time,” she explained. “At least one of those wins come from your doubles pairings.”

For Watts she said she has been playing all summer.

“I have been training pretty hard and trying to get prepared for this year,” she said. “My serve is going to be key for me this year. I am working on making certain the direction of the serve is more important than the power. Also, my volley will be key as well this year.”

Watts explained that the team is very close to one another.

“I think first, second and third singles are all very prepared to go into the season and rock out a couple matches. Doubles looks great too,” she said.

Lependorf said she has been worked on her serves, consistency, and hitting.

“I am really excited to be playing singles. I have really been working on my singles game. I think this year we are going to do well,” she said. “Working on my consistency will be key to be successful this season and try to stay positive and confident each match. Last year was a lot of fun being first doubles.”

Lependorf said that even though the team lost six seniors last year, this year’s edition is ready to step up and preform.

“Right now we are really working our doubles pairings together. You have to go through all the singles challenge matches to get the lineup in order,” Hibbert said. “Lawrence will be a good test for us opening the season. We need to see where we are and make certain we are ready.”