LINWOOD – The second time around was twice as sweet for the Mainland Regional High School girls tennis team.
Mainland won its second straight South Jersey Group III championship Monday, Oct. 17 with a 5-0 sweep of Hammonton. It is the first time in the history of the program that the Mainland girls have won back-to-back sectional titles.
“It was really cool doing this all together, because we didn’t really lose anybody from last year,” said doubles player Christa Carideo, one of four seniors who played in Monday’s match. “We had the same team, and to win back-to-back for the first time in school history … we wanted to be the team that accomplished that.”
Carideo and fellow senior doubles partner Christina Collings earned the first point for Mainland with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Hammonton’s Hannah Cohan and Sarah Richardson. At first singles, senior Meena Mandalapu defeated Kayla Lisek 6-1, 6-0, and the second doubles team of Emily Mack and Justine Gozar clinched the match with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Nicole Wharton and Julia Clancy.
Singles players Claudia Mairone and Jennifer Margolis completed the sweep, with Margolis earning a lengthy, comeback 5-7, 6-2, 13-11 victory over Julia Harrington at third singles.
“This was really our goal from the start of the season,” said Margolis, “and I think we proved that today with our 5-0 win. We didn’t let anything get by us.”
Margolis said her grueling victory on Monday was similar to last year’s championship against Seneca, when she also survived a 10-point tiebreaker after the team victory had already been secured.
“I didn’t let knowing that we had already won stop me from really wanting to win,” she said. “I wanted to help out the rest of the team and still help myself. Their victories helped to get my victory, so it was still a team effort.”
The Mustangs (14-2) survived injuries and lineup shuffles to win their second straight title. Carideo and Collings, for instance, have only worked as doubles partners for about a week. Before that, Carideo and Margolis played first doubles together.
“I think we just worked harder for it this year,” Carideo said. “I feel like there was something about this year. Maybe because it’s my last year and a lot of others’ last year, that we really, really wanted to have a good season. And it was more exciting, because I think we also got closer as a team, so it wasn’t like a chore to do tennis. We all had a lot of fun this year.”
“We were always picking each other up, each match, always trying to drive each other,” Collings said. “We’re proud of each other.”
Mainland now moves on to the state semifinal round Thursday at Mercer County Park in West Windsor. It will play the winner of Tuesday’s Central Group III final between Moorestown and Hightstown. Moorestown, which beat Mainland in the state semifinals last year, has won an amazing 27 straight sectional championships.
Mainland’s streak is more humble, but no less gratifying to coach Kathy Yohe because “it was so unexpected,” she said. “Having basically the same team as last year but in different positions, we were hopeful that we could have a good run, and they’ve just gotten better and better as the season goes on. And then we had injuries, and people just stepped in and did a great job, and they’re just an amazing group of girls. I’m so proud of them. It’s been a pleasure coaching them. I’m going to miss the seniors.”