What might be the best looking-ahead factor about a team that just completed an outstanding 19-3 season?
Well, in the case of the Cranford girls’ tennis team, perhaps it’s the fact that the Cougars return five of their seven starters for 2019, including all three singles players.
Cranford’s 19-3 record included the Cougars capturing the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division championship and also reaching the North 2, Group 3 semifinals.
Cranford finished seventh in the Union County Tournament at the Donald Van Blake Courts in Plainfield, with Kent Place and Westfield sharing the team title.
The three singles players, all freshmen, include Molly Gardiner at first, Olivia Tardibuono at second and Alyssa Colombrita at third.
“Molly, Olivia and Alyssa were certainly a nice surprise,” Cranford head coach Lisa Williams said.
Gardiner produced a stellar 18-2 record, while Tardibuono at 16-5 and Colombrita at 14-6 were also better than steady. In the UCT, Gardiner was fifth, Tardibuono eighth and Colombrita ninth.
Gardiner won in straight sets 11 times.
“Molly has a lot of experience playing in tournaments, while Olivia and Alyssa are beginning their tennis journey,” Williams said. “Oliva and Alyssa took lessons over the summer and improved that much more during our practices before the start of the season.”
After a 3-3 start, Colombrita won 11 of her final 14 matches.
“Alyssa has come a long way and made vast improvements to her game learning a topspin forehand and more competitive serve,” Williams said. “Our first match of the season she lost to Roselle Park and the very last match of the season she won vs. the same competitor, proving her successful season.”
At first doubles was the tandem of senior Julia Sorkin and sophomore Amanda Newport.
“They played at the singles state tournament, losing in the first round to Princeton,” Williams said. “Newport will return next season and we will continue to focus on her mechanics and doubles strategy.”
Sorkin and Newport fashioned a 16-3 record at first doubles.
At second doubles, seniors Hailey Seals and Kylie Brown produced a 16-4 mark.
Both doubles teams were sixth at the UCT.
“All three graduating seniors are extremely intelligent and talented young ladies,” Williams said. “Sorkin is an EMT for Cranford, Seals is the Manager at Giggles in Cranford and Brown is going to college to be a Bio Engineer.
“Our entire team is made up of honors students and overachievers. I am extremely proud of their progress on the tennis court and their ability to balance life as dedicated high school students.”
After taking five years off from coaching the girls’ and boys’ varsity tennis teams to have her own children – Savannah, 4, and Bethany, now 2 and a half – Williams returned to coach the girls’ team this fall.
“As the coach of the girls’ team and a mom of two girls I feel that it’s important to set an example for these young ladies,” Williams said. “I was clear with the girls on all the things that I was balancing in my life while coaching: wife, mother of two, working full-time as a special education teacher at Cranford High School, taking graduate classes for my second master’s degree in Administration Leadership at Georgian Court University, Advisor to the P.R.I.D.E. club of CHS and during the season training for and running the Brooklyn Half Marathon.
“It’s important to set high expectations on the court, in the classroom and in life. I feel that all of my players have learned a lot about tennis, being a good sport and the importance of a balanced life to be happy.
“Strong women can certainly be strong leaders and I would like to think that the 2018 Cranford girls’ tennis team knows that it can do whatever it sets its mind to!”
NOTES: Cranford clinched the Mountain Division crown on Oct. 30 with its 3-2 win at Governor Livingston.
“During our season we were more concerned about building the strength of our team and going over strategy to win and be successful,” Williams said. “Winning the division was an added bonus to all of our hard work this season on and off the court.”
2018 CRANFORD GIRLS’ TENNIS:
FIRST SINGLES: Molly Gardiner, freshman (18-2)
SECOND SINGLES: Olivia Tardibuono, freshman (16-5)
THIRD SINGLES: Alyssa Colombrita, freshman (14-6)
FIRST DOUBLES: Julia Sorkin, senior and Amanda Newport, sophomore (16-3)
SECOND DOUBLES: Hailey Seals, senior and Kylie Brown, senior (16-4)
Emma DeBole, senior; Chloe Sachs, senior
TEAM RESULTS (19-3):
Sept. 4 (A) Cranford 4, Roselle Park 1
Sept. 7 (H) Cranford 5, Union 0
Sept. 13 (H) Cranford 4, Union Catholic 1
Sept. 20 (H) Cranford 5, Elizabeth 0
Sept. 21 (A) Cranford 5, McNair 0
Sept. 22 (A) Westfield 4, Cranford 1
Oct. 1 (A) Cranford 3, New Providence 2
Oct. 2 (A) Cranford 5, Dayton 0
Oct. 3 (A) Cranford 5, Irvington 0 – N2,G3 first round
Oct. 4 (H) Cranford 5, Gov. Livingston 0
Oct. 5 (A) Scotch Plains 3, Cranford 2
Oct. 9 (A) Cranford 5, Nutley 0 – N2,G3 quarterfinals
Oct. 12 (A) Millburn 5, Cranford 0 – N2,G3 semifinals
Oct. 18 (A) Cranford, 5, Union Catholic 0
Oct. 19 (H) Cranford 3, Scotch Plains 1
Oct. 22 (H) Cranford 5, Verona 0
Oct. 23 (H) Cranford 4, Elizabeth 1
Oct. 25 (H) Cranford 4, Dayton 1
Oct. 26 (H) Cranford 4, Plainfield 1
Oct. 30 (A) Cranford 3, Gov. Livingston 2
Oct.31 (H) Cranford 5, Plainfield 0
Nov. 1 (H) Cranford 5, Roselle Park 0
Union County Tournament: seventh
North 2, Group 3: semifinalists
Union County Conference-Mountain Division: champions