A day after winning the Central Group I title, ending a long drought, Metuchen High School was hoping to make history at the state championship.
The Bulldogs, the only Middlesex County team to advance, had last reached the state sectional final in 1985, and were ready to take on Pennsville, the South Group I sectional champion.
But Pennsville trounced Metuchen 4.5-0.5 at Mercer County Park on Wednesday, advancing to win the Group 1 championship over Glen Ridge.
“Being that this is the first time that these girls have won the state sectional title, that in itself is something to be proud of,” Metuchen coach Rob Strauss said. “Pennsville is a very formidable opponent, and seeing that they were the state champion last year, we knew we’d be faced with a tough match.
“I’m very proud of all the girls, as I’ve been all season, stepping up and putting forth a great effort.”
The first singles contest between Metuchen’s Catherine Papow and Pennsville’s Lauren Kiger started with a 20-plus-point rally that ended in Kiger’s favor. It was a prologue to the match. Papow and Kiger played long rallies, including loopy lobs, seeming to say to each other: “Let’s see who’ll make an unforced error first.”
The rivals rarely hit clear winners, and long points caused them to run out of time. State rules gave players two hours to complete their 9 a.m. match before another contest was slated for the court. Kiger had won the first set 6-2, and Papow was ahead in the second set 4-2 when the match was suspended, earning their teams half a point each.
“I think she was really consistent,” Popow said. “For the first set, I think the reason I lost was because we’d rally for like 40 points, and I’d get frustrated and I’d just slam it. For the second set, I was a little more patient.
“I’m really excited because this is the first time we made it this far since the ’80s. I’m just happy I was a part of it,” Popow added.
Pennsville won the four other flights. At second singles, Tori Nugent defeated Metuchen’s Lisa Allgauer 6-2, 6-0; and Brooke Coleman toppled Anna Popow (Catherine’s sister) 6-2, 6-3.
In doubles play, Devon Hill and Tori Hiles beat Synthia Delgado and Tiffany Yao 6-1, 6-2; and Lizzy Tripet and Emily Haynes edged Averi Chan and Jules Richards 7-5, 6-3 in a competitive second doubles match.