Perhaps the only way a team really learns how to improve its game is by competing against the best.
The Roselle Park girls’ tennis team will have that opportunity once again this season based on the experienced teams it will face.
The Panthers, for the second straight season, are situated in the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division. Roselle Park will play these six teams – Cranford, Johnson, Elizabeth, Union, New Providence and Plainfield – twice each in division action.
“We’re challenged in the Mountain Division, but it’s a good division for us to be in,” said Roselle Park head coach Nancy Sturcke, now in her 37th season at the helm. “The competition is keen and many of the matches will be very close and hard fought.”
New Providence won the Mountain Division last year and returns its entire team.
At first singles for the Panthers is junior Niti Shah, who was at first doubles last year. “Niti is a smart player, who learns quickly,” Sturcke said. “She has real solid ground strokes and also a serve that delivers. She has a pretty solid, all-around game.”
Katarina DiLillo, a senior who was at third singles last year, moved up to second singles. “Katarina’s a real athlete, who has a great baseline game,” Sturcke said. “Of all our singles players, she is the most comfortable at the net. She uses her height (5-9) well.”
At third singles is junior Jasmin Brown, who was at first doubles with Shah last year. “Jasmin is a three-sport athlete (tennis, basketball, softball) and is quick and has a solid baseline game,” Sturcke said.
Senior Tiffany Hunter and junior Vanessa Vogler are at first doubles for the moment. Hunter played second doubles and Vogler was on the junior varsity team last year. “Tiffany came out for the first time last year and moved right into the lineup, which was pretty good accomplishment,” Sturcke said. “She has improved on her ground strokes and is quick and agile. Vogler is new to the lineup after playing JV last year. Both girls also play softball.”
At second doubles are juniors Muriel Olazo and Michelle Henriques. Both are up from JV. “Muriel surprises a lot of people because she’s a lefty,” Sturcke said. “She has a nice, solid game and is a good competitor. Michelle is similar in that regard. She plays a smart game and is improving on her baseline game.”
Other players in the program this year include senior Stephane Green, juniors Janemarie Buli, Nicole Sychowicz, Jui Pandya and Noel Chang, sophomore Jenn Hahn and freshmen Casey Crown and Morgan Literate.
Roselle Park finished 7-9 last year and was unable to play after Hurricane Sandy hit at the end of October. The Panthers were not able to play Elizabeth and Plainfield a second time and also had a couple of other matches rained out.
The Panthers have out-of-division matches this season vs. Watchung Division foe Governor Livingston and Valley Division squad Dayton.
Sept. 10 Cranford, lost 5-0
Sept. 12 Johnson, won 4-1
Sept. 17 Elizabeth, 4 p.m.
Sept. 19-20 UCT at Plainfield, 4 p.m.
Sept. 24 Union, 4 p.m.
Sept. 26 New Providence, 4 p.m.
Oct. 1 Plainfield, 4 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Cranford, 4 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Johnson, 4 p.m.
Oct. 10 Elizabeth, 4 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Union, 4 p.m.
Oct. 22 at New Providence, 4 p.m.
Oct. 24 Gov. Livingston, 4 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Plainfield, 4 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Dayton, 4 p.m.