Madison Stevens is used to being the aggressor, but on Sunday she found herself on the flip side of the coin.
The Pingry senior and No. 3 seed dropped her first match this season, being dealt a 6-1, 6-1 defeat by No. 2 seed Valerie Shklover of Fair Lawn in the NJSIAA singles semifinals at Mercer County Park.
The loss marked the second straight season in which Stevens bowed out in the state tournament’s semifinals.
“Valerie is a really strong player and she definitely puts a lot of pressure on you to make a lot of balls and stay consistent in the points,” said Stevens, a Chester native. “It’s really hard to get into a rhythm against her, so I definitely felt like I was missing some of my usual shots.”
Stevens dropped the first four games of the first set and the last five points of the second set, as Shklover needed just 45 minutes to punch her ticket to Wednesday’s final against No. 4 seed Christina Rosca of Princeton. Rosca took down top-seeded Joanna Zaleski of Linden in three sets in the other semifinal.
“Today it felt like I was the one doing most of the running, and that took away my ability to step up to the net as much as I like to,” Stevens admitted.
Stevens will immediately turn her attention to her team goals, which were set at the forefront before the state tournament even began. Pingry is seeking its third straight sectional title and a second consecutive Non-Public A crown.
The top-seeded Big Blue, who’ve already tasted championship success this season with a Somerset County Tournament team title last month, meet second-seeded Bishop Eustace in today’s Non-Public South A final. The match is set for 2 p.m. at Pingry’s courts in Bernards Township.
Stevens (11-0 in team matches) will face Eustace freshman Stephanie Yanosov (14-1 in team matches).
“I have a pretty competitive draw. I’m looking forward to having a more difficult match,” Stevens said. “I don’t often get to face players who push me. Hopefully I can regroup and get into more of a rhythm. It’s nice that I’ve been playing tough matches all week so it’s not going to be surprising to me.”