by Tom Utescher
For the girls tennis team at Germantown Friends, actually winning the Friends Schools League tournament finals last Thursday wasn’t as tough as getting there. Before the Tigers claimed the 2013 championship with a 5-0 sweep of defending champ Shipley School, they’d had to battle past Friends Central two days earlier in a 3-2 semifinal match.
The Tigers chalked up a 6-1 record in regular-season FSL contests, losing only to number one Moorestown (N.J.) Friends. That 2-3 setback occurred on October 4 against a Foxes franchise that had invigorated its line-up with addition of a pair of very talented freshmen.
It was the only loss in or out of the league for the Tigers, who finished 15-1 overall. At the close of the regular season, a September loss to Shipley had left Moorestown with a 6-1 FSL record identical to that of GFS, but the New Jersey school received the top seed for the tournament because of its head-to-head victory against the Tigers.
“We were surprised at how strong Moorestown was when we played them,” recalled Germantown head coach Kim McMenamin. “We thought we’d see them in the league finals if we got there, but Shipley beat them 4-1 in the semi’s. It worked out well for us, since we were able to play both of our tournament games on our home courts.”
In the Tigers’ semifinal against Friends Central on Tuesday, the two teams split the first two bouts to be completed. GFS senior Olivia Fiechter didn’t lose a game as she swept past Sydney Shore at second singles, but at number three Friends Central’s Zoe Ginsberg got the better of Tigers sophomore Sophie Bunson, 6-2, 6-1.
Home fans became a bit nervous when the visiting Phoenix went up 2-1 in the team score thanks to a successful outcome at first doubles. Here, FC’s Julia Lynn and Madison Roshkoff recorded a 6-4, 6-0 win over Germantown seniors Hannah Ceisler and Emma Clark.
The Tigers’ number two tandem, juniors Ann Carpenter and Emily Abbott, leveled the overall score at 2-2, winning their encounter with Saoirse Hahn and Emilia Weinberg, 6-4, 6-2. Facing Sophie Book of the Phoenix, GFS junior Joanna Booth opened at first singles with a 6-1 win. Book battled to an early lead in the second set, but Booth regrouped and took the set at 6-4, clinching the team victory and sending the Tigers on to Thursday’s championship match.
On the same afternoon, number four Shipley’s win over top-seeded Moorestown set up the third GFS-Shipley final in as many years. The Tigers prevailed in 2011, but the Gators claimed the crown last season.
As on Tuesday, Booth was the last Tiger on the court in Thursday’s title bout, but this time GFS had already locked up the “W” before their premier player finished out her 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 victory over Shipley sophomore Jill Nehrbas.
Things hadn’t gone so smoothly in the regular-season meeting between the two squads. Four matches into that clash, the Gators had won two of the singles bouts to balance out Germantown’s victories in both of the doubles duels.
McMenamin related, “Olivia [Fiechter] won the match for us at second singles, where she had to take a tiebreaker in the second set. That was really her only close match all season; she finished undefeated.”
The player who’d made a successful appearance at third singles for Shipley in that encounter later suffered a season-ending injury, and the Gators had to fill the vacancy with one of the girls from its original first doubles team.
In the FSL championships last Thursday, the Tigers started out by taking the second doubles contest in a pair of 6-0 sets, with Abbott and Carpenter dispatching Shipley juniors Elizabeth Menkowitz and Jordan Gottlieb. Next, two 6-1 sets won by Fiechter over visiting Britt Lovett put the second singles match in the GFS column.
The championship clincher was turned in by Bunson, who prevailed in a tough 7-5 opening set and then beat visiting junior Rachel Grobmann by a 6-2 score in the second.
Just before Booth completed Germantown’s 5-0 sweep, Ceisler and Clark prevailed at first doubles, knocking off junior Sophie Pilkington and senior Niki Slap of Shipley, 6-4, 6-4.
Finally, in the first singles match, McMenamin said, “Joanna was able to close out a tight first set that went to a tiebreaker. After that, her momentum just had her going in that second set, and she clinched that, 6-2.”
Next spring, graduation will take away Feichter, Ceisler, and Clark, along with fellow senior Nicoline Arlet, who played regularly in non-league matches where there was a third doubles flight.
“Three of them have been in the starting line-up since they were freshmen,” McMenamin pointed out. “We’ll need a couple of the JV players to step up, and we also have some strong eighth-graders this year, who we hope will keep developing over the summer.”