The crowd gathered at the Bey Lea tennis complex on Sunday morning to watch Ocean County’s top girls tennis players was treated to a memorable performance from top-seeded Toms River North.
The Mariners, who recently became the fourth-ranked team in the Shore Conference with a quarterfinal victory over No. 5 Marlboro in the conference tournament, continued their run of success clinching their program’s 10th Ocean County Tournament title, according to Coach Steve Hill, before the final rounds were even played. Singles players Kendall Kauffman, Shannon Young, Jordon Vasarkovy and the doubles pairings of Brinda Shah and Sarah Koerner and Sage Delaney and Erin Collier all played for flight championships on Sunday.
All were victorious except for Kauffman, who lost 6-0, 7-5 to Toms River East freshman Jamie Breunig at first singles and Young, who dropped a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 decision to Jackson Memorial’s Monica Chang.
“It was awesome what (Breunig) did,” said Toms River East coach Dan Dietrich. “Especially coming out and beating the returning champ. Jamie is my third freshman in 20 years to play at first singles, and she’s by far the best. She’s way ahead of the game.”
“I just wanted to make it to the finals,” Breunig said. “and let whatever was going to happen, happen.”
What happened was a stunning series of events. Breunig came out revved up like a chainsaw, sweeping the first set. Kauffman had only lost four games in her three prior OCT matches. The freshman caught Toms River North’s leader by surprise, and despite a strong second-set effort, Kauffman was unable to recover.
“After the first set I thought I had her,” Breunig said. “I thought I was going to take her 6-0 in the second set too, but she fought back hard.”
“She wanted this bad,” Dietrich said. “To play that first set the way she did, if you blinked it would’ve been over. It was the best set she’s played all year. Kendall is an awesome player, but I think she was surprised after that first set. Then Jamie was able to weather the storm in the second set before the nerves got to her.”
Kauffman wasn’t the only one caught off-guard.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Dietrich said of Breunig’s performance. “I thought the seedings were correct and that they would play out that way. I knew how well Jamie could play, but as a freshman, without as much experience as a lot of her competition, I figured eventually it’d be her turn. But she came out this weekend, she was focused, and she wanted it.”
Breunig utilized a powerful forehand game that sent shots skipping off the pavement past the opposition’s rackets throughout the OCT, earning three victories prior to the finals by scores of 6-0, 6-0; 6-1, 6-0 and 6-2, 6-4.
“I’m just really happy right now,” Breunig said. “It feels really good to see all my practice paid off. I can’t really describe all the feeling right now.”