2009-12-09 / Sports
Dassa, Mustangs are aces of FRHSD tennis
When all was said and done in the 2009 scholastic tennis season it was Marlboro High School that once again stood atop the girls tennis world in the Freehold Regional High School District.
Freehold Township High School once again mounted a challenge to the Mustangs' dominance in the Shore Conference A North Division, but when the last match had been played, Coach Dave Kretzmer's Mustangs were alone at the top of the A North race with a perfect 12-0 division record.
Marlboro finished at 16-2 overall in its matches this fall.
In tournament play, the Mustangs reached the semifinals in the Shore Conference Tournament and the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV state tournament.
Marlboro's ace, Michelle Dassa, was arguably the best player in the entire Shore Conference. Dassa did not lose a match to a shore-area player all year and she repeated as the Monmouth County champion.
Overall it was a good year for the FRHSD, with Freehold and Manalapan also fielding state tournament teams.
Dassa, a junior and a three-time selec- tion, leads the News Transcript's 2009 All- FRHSD Tennis Team. Freehold Township's Bianca Petcu, Manalapan's Ashley Klein, Freehold's Mariel Weisbart and Marlboro's Nikita Raman complete the singles lineup.
The All-FRHSD doubles teams are Marlboro's Lauren Nguyen and Robyn Belen, and Jessica Lehner and Jessica Einstein.
Dassa gave Marlboro something the squad is very familiar with: a dominant first singles player. She did not drop a match during the regular season as Marlboro marched to another A North division title.
Somehow, the Monmouth County Tournament seeding committee did not think Dassa, the defending champion, was worthy of being seeded. That slight only fueled Dassa's determination to repeat as champion while putting some egg on the faces of the committee. She did not have it easy, having to defeat the No. 4, 2 and 1 seeds along the way to winning the crown. In the county final she rallied from a set down and a break in the second set to defeat the top seed, Lindsay Balsamo of Wall Township.
Dassa, 17-1 on the season, was not able to participate in the NJSIAA singles tournament due to illness, making her county title that much more important.
Petcu, who had a smashing debut as freshman in 2008, backed it up with a solid sophomore season as she kept Freehold Township in the hunt in the A North race. Competing against many of the Shore Conference's top players throughout the season, Petcu was one of the top first singles players in the conference and the state, and she advanced to the third round of the NJSIAA state tournament. Petcu fashioned an 18-5 record in 2009.
Weisbart, a junior, led a singles lineup that helped the Freehold High School tennis team contend for the Shore Conference B North Division crown and qualify for the state tournament. Weisbart went up against many of the Shore Conference's best players this fall and qualified for the state tournament. She won 13 matches in 2009.
Klein, a sophomore, had a successful season in helping Manalapan qualify for the NJSIAA state tournament, where the Braves advanced to the semifinals. Klein proved she belongs in the company of the top players in the Shore Conference by advancing to the third round of the state tournament.
Raman, a sophomore, was the best second singles player in the FRHSD. When Dassa was ill, Raman moved up to first singles for Marlboro and faced some of the best players in the Shore Conference. Marlboro appears set for 2010 with Dassa and Raman at the top two singles spots.
The thing that can separate good teams from championship squads is the play of their doubles squads. Those two team points can be the difference in many matches and Marlboro had the edge in division play at doubles.
In Nguyen and Belen, Marlboro combined experience in junior Nguyen with youth in freshman Belen, and it proved to be a very good mix. The duo advanced to the second round of the state doubles tournament.
The same can be said of Marlboro juniors Lehner and Einstein at second doubles. As they teamed up for the first time this fall, the pair proved to be a complementary duo on the court.
Marlboro will remain a difficult hurdle for opponents to clear in 2010. Every one of the team's All-FRHSD players is due to return.
Players who have earned All-FRHSD honorable mention recognition for their performances in 2009 are Wendy McDermott, Freehold High School; Michelle Caravaglio, Victoria Andrea and Cara Critelli, Freehold Township High School; and Rachel Ger, Marlboro High School.