October 15, 2011
By Rich Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
Lauren Urbont dropped just two games to win at first singles for Dwight-Englewood, which knocked off Montclair Kimberley, 3-2, in the Non-Public B state sectional semifinals.
EDGEWATER – Most of the joy that comes from playing high school tennis is the camaraderie between teammates and getting to cheer them on while playing one's own match. But unable to get any scores or see any other matches on Friday, Dwight-Englewood’s second doubles tandem of Rachel Kupelian and Sydney Taub had to have a singular focus and that was the court they were on. With the Bulldogs’ season on the line against a talented squad from Montclair-Kimberley Academy, the duo buckled down and rallied their team to victory.
They fought off two set points and erased a 5-2 deficit in the first set to win in a tiebreak before holding on in the second to as Dwight-Englewood returns to the Non-Public North B section title match with a hard-fought, 3-2 semifinal triumph over MKA at Binghamton Racquet Club in Edgewater.
“We knew it might come down to our match and we were ready for it,” said Kupelian. “When you get this far, every single match is important. Our whole team wanted this one so bad and now we’re where we want to be.”
Dwight-Englewood quickly picked up two points from its two most experienced players at the top of the lineup. First-singles standout Lauren Urbont and hard-hitting Samantha Balanevsky at second singles each dropped just two games in their respective matches to move the Bulldogs just a point away from victory.
However, that would not come easy as the Lady Cougars scratched and clawed to stay in the match. They got a point back when Lauren Martin and Kira Farris scored an impressive 6-4, 6-1 victory over Bergen County first-doubles champions Alexa Colas and Nicole Fromer.
|Samantha Balanevsky cruised at second singles for Dwight.
With Dwight’s Jackie Herrssens trailing in the third set and eventually falling to Madison Rivlin 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, the fortunes of the Bulldogs’ season fell on the shoulders of Kupelian and Taub. Fortunately, neither of them knew that the pressure even existed.
“We couldn’t see any other scores and we weren’t distracted by anything, so our only focus was what was going on in our match,” said Taub. “It definitely helped us not to have matches around us and we had our mind set only on fighting for every point.”
Kupelian and Taub quickly fell behind 5-2 and were a point away from dropping the first set on a few occasions before battling back to squaring the set at 5 and eventually forcing a tiebreak before pulling away to steal the first set.
“Once we got down (5-2) in the first set, we just decided to get more aggressive with our shots and at the net. We started playing like we had nothing to lose and it definitely gave us an advantage once we won the first set to go all out in the second set.”
MKA’s Lauren Charpentier and Tessa Calandra broke and then held to get back on serve and grab a 2-1 lead. Kupelian and Taub showed their resiliency again by breaking right back to grab a 3-2 lead that they did not relinquish on their way to a clinching 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 win.
Dwight-Englewood (10-1) now has the match its players have been waiting for all season long. They will get another crack at top-seeded Newark Academy on Monday afternoon for the Non-Public North B section title. The match will be played at Millburn High School on Monday with a scheduled 2:00 P.M. start time.
Last year, Newark Academy’s Molly Alter topped Urbont in a third-set tiebreak at first singles as the Bulldogs ended the season with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss. While many of the players are the same on both sides, Dwight-Englewood head coach Courtney Baiardi has a different feeling about her team’s chances the second time around.
“We have been so focused from day one until today and it’s all been geared up to get another chance at Newark Academy,” said Baiardi. “I think last year we were a little nervous and in awe of them even though we fought them right until the very end. This year, we come in with a lot more confidence and with a lot more to prove. We have already had a great season with a county title, beating Newark Academy would be the icing on the cake.”
PHOTOS OF THIS EVENT OR TO BUY A COLLECTOR'S PRINT
OF THIS GAME STORY, PLEASE VISIT 4FeetGrafix.com.