by Tom Utescher
Last Thursday’s girls tennis match between host Germantown Friends School and neighboring Penn Charter took more than three hours to complete, but it didn’t take that long to learn the outcome.
The GFS Tigers won each of the first five bouts to finish up, sweeping the singles flights and capturing the second and third doubles contests. The visiting Quakers felt a little better by the end of the affair, prevailing in the first and fourth doubles matches to fashion a final team score of 5-2 (in favor of Germantown Friends).
The Tigers, who had won their official season opener against Germantown Academy (3-2), improved to 2-0 with last Thursday’s outcome, while Charter came away 2-1. Previously, PC had overwhelmed Archbishop Ryan, and had won a closer encounter against Abington Friends School, 4-3.
The Quakers have most of their top talent back from last year, but lost some depth with the graduation of five seniors back in June.
GFS only graduated two full-time starters, but suffered a much more significant loss when one star player who is still only a sophomore opted not to rejoin the school team. Joanna Booth, a highly-ranked player in the USTA Middle States section and the Friends Schools League individual champion last fall, is focusing on individual training and on participating in junior tournaments this year, so GFS lost a valuable number one player.
The Tigers were undefeated team champions in the FSL in 2011, and there is a lot of interest in the tennis program at the school. As host of last Thursday’s clash, Germantown could’ve conducted the match in the FSL’s three-singles, two-doubles format, but with a deep roster, the Tigers played PC in the three/four alignment used by the Girls Inter-Ac League and by the PIAA.
At the start of Penn Charter’s 2011 season Margaux Losty, then a sophomore, was playing first singles and rising eighth-grade talent Danielle Yampolsky was in the second spot, but as the 2012 campaign gets underway these two athletes have switched places.
With Booth out of the line-up for GFS, former number two Olivia Fiechter has bumped up to first singles for her junior season. A member of the U.S. Junior National Team in squash, Feichter has received little formal training in tennis, but her hand-eye coordination, stamina, and overall athletic ability make her a formidable opponent.
In an encounter with many long points, she overcame PC’s Yampolsky last week in a pair of 6-3 sets. At number two, PC’s Losty was facing the Tigers’ Anna Bezahler, a senior who has moved up from the third singles position she played in 2011. Bezahler prevailed, 6-4, 6-4, and a singles sweep for the home team was completed by junior Emma Clark, who won the third match, 6-2, 6-1, over Charter sophomore Rebecca John.
Germantown now needed just one win at doubles to clinch the team victory, and both the second and third tandems came through. The second doubles duo for the Tigers featured two players who are new to the varsity line-up this fall, junior Nicoline Arlet and freshman Sophie Bunson. They took the first set at 6-2, but had to work harder to capture the second stage, eventually grinding out a 7-5 win over Quakers sophomore Emily Barkann and freshman Paige Hodges.
Four seasoned players participated in third doubles action, where seniors Ameena McKnight and Savannah Smith of the host team topped PC senior Carly Stern and junior Liza Gendler, 6-3, 6-4.
The encounter ended with Penn Charter winning two long doubles contests to make the final team score a tad less lopsided.
In the top flight, seniors Erin Lo and Ryann Shaffer of the Quakers split sets with their hosts, senior Lauren Shinn and junior Hannah Ceisler. With the first hints of sunset starting to encroach on the courts, a super tiebreaker was played instead of a full third set, with Lo and Shaffer pulling out a 10-7 win to clinch the match.
A few minutes later, a fourth doubles bout involving four seniors wrapped up. Here, Penn Charter’s Jess Drossner (best known as a softball pitcher) and Michelle Gross won 6-4, 6-2 over Eliza Daeschler and Anna Sacks of Germantown Friends.