Heading into the Union County Tournament on Thursday, seven-time defending champion Westfield High School is the team to beat.
Despite graduating all three singles starters and a doubles player, the Blue Devils (8-3) are strong, said coach Matt Varhley, adding that he has prepared his squad for tough matches.
“Well, we decided to play a very challenging schedule early on because I feel our team needs to be tested against the better teams in the state,” Varhley said. “We just beat Bridgewater — a team we lost to last year in the state sectional finals.”
Varhley also touted his team’s third-place finish in the Moorestown Classic against top programs earlier this month.
“For us, to finish third was a big accomplishment, with strong wins against West Windsor, Plainsboro North and Moorestown,” he noted. “We made it to the semifinals against Holmdel — the No. 3 team in the state.”
Varhley counted Governor Livingston and Kent Place as Westfield’s chief rivals for the Union County crown.
Heading the Blue Devils’ lineup is co-captain Lexi Borr, who skipped high school tennis last year when she was home-schooled. The two-time county champion is back for her senior year at first singles, a position she held as a freshman and sophomore. In fact, Borr led Westfield to its first NJSIAA Tournament of Champions crown in her sophomore year.
“I think a lot of the girls look up to me because of what I’ve accomplished,” Borr said. “I try to help them as much as I can with their tennis, their training and exercising. I have a lot of match experience and I help them stay mentally strong.”
Borr, who is committed to Boston College, expects to defend the county title and end her high school career on a high note.
“I’d love to win states individually, and I think the team can do really well,” Borr added. “We have a few younger girls who don’t have a lot of experience, but the team is very talented.”
Rounding out Westfield’s lineup are junior Caroline King at second singles and freshman Rebecca Sisto at third singles; county champions senior Elizabeth Cusick and junior Julia Criscuolo reprise their role at first doubles, while senior Marina Kovalenko and freshman Connie Wu are second-doubles starters.
Tennis isn’t the only love match for Cusick, who will be playing lacrosse at Stanford University next fall. She said she enjoys coming through for the Blue Devils in clutch situations.
“We’re a good rock for our team when it comes to the big matches,” Cusick explained. “My partner (Criscuolo) and I have better chemistry playing together for a second season. We now know what works and what doesn’t work for us as a team. This year, we’re hoping to go to the state doubles tournament.”
Varhley takes the broad view on coaching his team, refusing to focus on titles and trophies.
“Our goals this year are simple,” Varhley noted. “We want to play the right way and have fun doing it.”