When the best Monmouth County has to offer in girls tennis are on display, quite literally, the dogs will play …or, at least, that was the case on Sunday morning at Tindall Park in Middletown.
As a Middletown resident whose combed Tindall Park’s recently resurfaced slabs of green and red concrete, I can attest that many a service attempts, forehand smashes and delicately placed drop shots have been foiled by the timely barks and howls of the ground’s sole resident, a full-grown 55-pound bulldog named Baxter whose backyard lies adjacent to the primary cut of pavement where Rumson-Fair Haven’s Kate Fahey was matched up with Manasquan’s Abby Duddy in the main event of this two-day tournament.
Maybe Baxter’s guttural utterances have become somewhat of a pastime for a puffy-cheeked pooch, payback for those who roam free while he’s confined to the dimensions of his backyard haunts …or maybe one ferocious bulldog can sense the presence of another. Either, way barks and applause seemed to mount into one indiscernible cheer as the Bulldogs’ Fahey took the championship match in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0, capturing her second consecutive Monmouth County Tournament (MCT) first singles title.
In fact, Fahey failed to drop a game all weekend, vanquishing three opponents after an opening round bye during her championship run by scores of love and love.
“There were a lot of good players here,” said Fahey of the field she carved up, “and I was really excited to play Abby [Duddy]. She’s such a good player and I haven’t had a chance to play her yet during the regular season,” as Duddy was absent from the Class A Central clash of Sept. 14 due to a United States Tennis Association competition.
During this meeting, Duddy worked hard to get the ball deep on Fahey in hopes of handcuffing the sophomore, but to no avail as Rumson’s burgeoning star manipulated both sides of the cross section with a thunderous power game that rattled the rusty chain linked cage after several cross court winners, and an equally impressive finesse showcase featuring slices and drops that fluttered and died like a narcoleptic dove.
“Abby’s a tough player,” said Fahey, “so I made sure to focus in and put as many balls on her as possible. And she got to a lot of them. She definitely made me battle and hit a lot more returns than I would’ve liked. But it was a good match and I’m very pleased with the way I played.”
Red Bank Catholic’s Jenna Pellegrino earned her fourth career Monmouth County Tournament title in as many years with a 6-0, 6-0 performance against Holmdel’s Alicia Lai.
The finals victory was both a trail once blazed and a new plateau as the senior followed up a previous trifecta of third singles championships with her first second singles title.
“It feels great,” expressed an exited Pellegrino of her victory. “I was really focused in this match…I knew I had to be, and I’m very happy with the result.”
The human backboard that is Pellegrino makes her bones on the baseline, frustrating and wearing down opponents with a barrage of returns, which was the case in this showdown.
“I try to play safely aggressive,” explained Pellegrino of her in-game tactics. “I aim for the corners, but make sure not to go for anything too risky, to let my opponent make the mistake.”
“I think I did a good job of making a lot of shots today and not letting Alicia get into the flow of the match. I was able to control the match. I was able to wear her down by running her shots down, and definitely made her miss.”
After working past Ocean’s Victoria Guseva-Michelon in the third singles Semi Finals, Holmdel’s Lucy Wang defeated Manasquan’s Brianne Lauria by scores of 7-6 (7-4), 6-7, and (10-1) in the finals joining the Hornets second double’s pairing of Sarah Yan and Nandini Krishnaswamy as MCT champions, allowing the top ranked program in the Shore Conference to capture its first overall title since 2008.
The Hornets were able to edge out Red Bank Catholic, the team that’s captured the past three MCT team titles, by a total score of 23-20, despite a first doubles championship from Jenna Giordano and Rebecca Bauer.
FIRST SINGLES: Kate Fahey (Rumson-FH) d. Abby Duddy (Manasquan) 6-0, 6-0; SECOND SINGLES: Jenna Pellegrino (RB Catholic) d. Alicia Lai (Holmdel) 6-0, 6-0; THIRD SINGLES: Lucy Wang (Holmdel) d. Brianne Lauria (Manasquan) 7-6 (4), 6-2 (10-6); FIRST DOUBLES: Rebecca Bauer-Jenna Giordano (RB Catholic) d. Tiffany Huang-Lauren Byrket (Holmdel) 2-6, 6-7 (10-1); SECOND DOUBLES: Sarah Yan-Nandini Krishnaswamy (Holmdel) d. Molly Mchugh-Giana Iannacone 4-6, 6-1 (10-7).
FIRST SINGLES: Kate Fahey (Rumson-FH) d. Katie Mckay (Holmdel) 6-0, 6-0; Abby Duddy (Manasquan) d. Melissa Granet (Shore) 6-2, 6-4; SECOND SINGLES: Jenna Pellegrino (RB Catholic) d. Alexis Yu (Freehold) 6-2, 6-1; Alicia Lai (Holmdel) d. KIm Bach (Rumson-FH) 6-0, 6-0; THIRD SINGLES: Lucy Wang (Holmdel) d. Victoria Guseva-Michelon (Ocean) 6-2, 6-0.
FIRST DOUBLES: Lauren Byrket-Tiffany Huang (Holmdel) d. Shannon Harman- MargaretAnn Smith (Manasquan) 6-0, 6-2; SECOND DOUBLES: Rebecca Bauer-Jenna Giordano (RB Catholic) d. Shelby Sabat-Sophie Parluk (Rumson-FH) 6-0, 5-7, 10-1; Sarah Yan-Nandini Krishnaswamy (Holmdel) d. Megan Jarvis-Paige Balkovich (Wall) 6-0, 6-2; Molly McHugh-Giana Iannacone (RB Catholic) d. Amy Littleson-Hines (Rumson-FH) 4-6, 6-1, 10-7.