What do you do if your top singles player and defending Morris County Tournament first singles champion elects not to return to play high school tennis?
If your defending county champion Mendham, you simply find a talented freshman in Lauren Hassell to plug into the top singles position, gather the rest of a potent returning lineup and put together another outstanding season.
With the majority of its lineup back on the court and the addition of Hassell at first singles, the Minutemen compiled a 22-1 record, captured their second consecutive Morris County Tournament team title, added a North 2 Group III sectional championship, and advanced to the Tournament of Champions semifinals before finally being stopped by Millburn.
Mendham is the 2012 All Daily Record Girls Tennis Team of the Year.
“We really had a great season, especially with two freshmen moving into the lineup,” said long-time Mendham head coach Ed Chando.
Mendham began the 2012 with a pair of freshmen in its lineup. Hassell, who battled tough competition nearly every match, finished with a 161/2-61/2 record at first singles and Lauren Hernandez, who partnered with senior Veronkia Fojtu at first doubles, were 20-3. Hernandez and Fojtu captured the MCT title before advancing to the NJSIAA state doubles final where they fell in three grueling sets to Haddonfield.
“Both freshmen played with a lot of poise,” said Chando.
While Hassell and Fernandez provided an infusion of youth in an otherwise senior-dominated lineup, it was the presence of such returning veterans as Tara Buchney at second singles, Katie Gutknecht at third singles and Michelle Miller and Abby Grabow at doubles that gave the Minutemen an edge.
Buchney finished 22-1 at second singles while Gutknecht was also 22-1 at third singles and captured individual honors at the Morris County Tournament. Miller and Grabow were also 22-1 and were crowned MCT champions.
Mendham’s magical season hit a high note when the Minutemen captured their second consecutive Morris County Tournament team championship, withstanding a battle from Montville to gain the title.
From there, they took an undefeated record into state play where they rolled through the competition in capturing the North 2 Group III title. In four sectional matches, the Minutemen did not drop a single team point and defeated rival Chatham 5-0 in the final to gain a berth in the Tournament of Champions.
Seeded third in the TOC, the Minutemen found themselves facing off against old nemesis Millburn in the semifinals where they came out on the short end of a hard fought 3-2 decision.
“I thought we had a chance to beat Millburn in the Tournament of Champions but we just ran out of gas,” said Chando. “We played a lot of tennis leading up to that match and we came up short but it didn’t take away from an outstanding season.”