For Coach Steve Hill and his Mariners, 2012 ended in disappointing fashion, as third-seeded Toms River North fell to No. 2 Cherokee in a South Jersey Group IV semifinal match.
However, what’s not to be overshadowed is the prefacing yarn of record breaking feats, title-seizing moments, and the perfect storm of depth, experience, and hunger to achieve that truly illustrates this recently passed campaign.
“We had a lot of players coming back,” said Hill in reflection. “Essentially we were replacing one starter from the previous season, so we felt that expectations were high.”
Quite high in fact, as Toms River North was viewed as the class of Ocean County tennis from the start of the year. A label that can prove reasonably burdensome for a program of any caliber, for when the target is affixed, every opponent encountered will look to knock you off and that’s where the Mariners’ senior captain, Kendall Kauffman, entered the frame.
The First-Team All-Shore selection entered 2012 as one of most talented players in Mariners history, and would collect 25 wins for the season, a tally that would place Kauffman atop the program list for most career wins with 91.
“Kendall’s record over the course of this season is pretty incredible,” said Hill of his team’s captain. “She played in every match we had, which doesn’t always happen with a team’s top kid. But she sucked it up and I give her a lot of credit for it. I’ve coached a lot of female athletes in basketball and tennis and she’s right their in top two or three most talented I’ve ever had.”
Kauffman’s personal accolades this past year, though well earned and more than deserved, would not have been enough on their own to provide Toms River North with one of its most successful seasons on record. It takes a strong team effort, from first singles down to second doubles, to achieve such heights. A fact Hill was quick to point out.
“Our third singles player, Jordan Vasarkovy, made immense progress from a season ago going 27-2,” said Hill. “Her only losses were to Holmdel and Haddonfield in close matches.”
“At second singles we had Shannon Young who finished up at 24-5. Without them, and the strength of our doubles teams, we wouldn’t have had the type of year we did.”
As for the aforementioned loss to Cherokee, Hill sees it as a match the program would like to have back, but more as a learning experience, and something to be built upon for the future.