Brilliant hit: Princeton day school girls tennis player Neha Khandkar hits a forehand in a game last season. Senior Khandkar will again play PDS’ first singles match this fall. The Panthers lost 3-2 to Peddie School and Haddonfield last week, then beat Mount St. Mary’s 5-0 last Monday for the Stewart Country Day School game on Sept. 16, and Newar in Sept. Gram College Invitational. 17, and then start the Mercer County Championship on September 19 at the Mercer County Park Tennis Center. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
While seeing his Princeton day school girls tennis team start the season with a pair of narrow losses last week, Michael Augsberg wants his players to learn some lessons from the setbacks.
“I think the biggest takeaway is being patient and realizing that we haven’t quite decided everything, so there’s a lot of juggling going on in the lineup,” said Augsberg, whose team ended Thursday with a 3-0 in the season opener. -2 to Peddie and then a 3-2 loss to Hardenfield a day later before a 5-0 win over Mount St. Mary’s last Monday.
“It’s also a kind of patience not to put your head down when you lose early in the game or if you lose the first few games of a season. The games are long and the seasons are long. There are a lot of adjustments to be made, They’ll only improve. They’ll realize that. Once they’re in better shape and they’re more responsive to volleys, they’re going to win those opposing points.”
In the first singles game, senior Neha Khandkar provided the Panthers with a very strong player at the top of their lineup.
“Neja is one of the nicest people around, her spirit is very strong,” Augsburg said. “We love her mindset and the way she leads the team, the way she never gives up and thinks in every situation. She has improved a lot. She slices a little better, her perspective is a little different. A lot of things are in her She’s more consistent. She’s fitter, and she’s been able to hold out longer as the year matures.”
Senior Amy Zhou showed consistency in the second single.
“Amy is really impressive right now,” Augsburg said. “She won second in the singles and she played well.”
In third place in the singles, junior Kristina Wang brought patience and skill.
“Christina is very comfortable on the bottom line, hitting the ball in rallies,” Augsberg said. “I feel like she can beat almost anyone in hitting and pulling. I don’t need to work with her to be patient. It’s more about choosing the right time to attack and when to work in the network game.”
The pair of sophomore Arya Kara and senior Josephine Baranski started the doubles in their first game of the season.
“Arya is probably the most improved player of all, she’s one of the best volleys on the team,” Augsburg said. “Josephine seems to really enjoy playing with her. She’s gained experience from last year; she’s played a lot of first doubles with Sophie Zhang. That’s why we paired them. I knew it had to be Arya. The point is Find the right partner for her.”
In the second doubles, junior Ashlindoo and sophomore Kavita Amin accumulated some valuable experience in the early stage.
“Ashlyn really wanted to break his year; she felt the urgency and she’d been patient for a long time,” Augsberg said. “We want her to shine, she has done a lot with Arya in the offseason. They have the same offseason coaches. Ashlyn is probably the next best singles player, so she needs to translate that into Doubles. Kavita was there too. She won some really big singles games for us last year. We want her to be in the lineup full-time, which means doubles.”
With the Mercer County Championships kicking off Sept. 19 at the Mercer County Park Tennis Center, Augsberg is hoping his players can pull off some big wins.
“Anything can happen to a single person; we believe in our three single ladies, and they can do a lot of damage,” Augsberg said. “It’s my responsibility to figure out what the doubles team is going to be so they can
Develop the chemistry they will need and give us points to make us a real contender. We suffered heavy losses, but it was a good barometer of where we were. This is an awakening. We need to see if it will breathe life into us, or if it will bring us down. I hope we choose the former. If we’re going to do well on MCT, we need to improve. “
Faced with tough competition, the Panthers should prepare for the challenge this fall.
“We’re really proud of the intensity of the schedule, and we don’t want to shy away from the best,” said Augsberg, who led the Panthers to the non-public A South Jersey division last fall.
“Newark College invited us to their Invitational. It put pressure on the schedule, it was a tough competition, but we jumped at it. We wanted to play our best and be ready for it .”