While schools in northern Delaware have dominated the world of high school tennis for quite some time now, the teams from Caesar Rodney have showed for the second year in a row they were a force to be reckoned with.
While schools in northern Delaware have dominated the world of high school tennis for quite some time now, the teams from Caesar Rodney have showed for the second year in a row they are a force to be reckoned with.
Following a year in which the boys team won the state title and the girls tied with Tower Hill for top honors, the Riders tennis teams came into Wednesday’s DIAA tennis championship finals at the University of Delaware with every intention of fighting to keep those state titles.
The Riders left it all on the court Wednesday but was it enough?
The CR boys tennis team finished the state tournament tied with Tatnall for first place with 19 points apiece. As for the girls team, their 20 points was second behind Tower Hill.
Helping to lead the way for the Riders were first place finishes by boys first singles player Jared Morris, boys third singles player Nate Parker and girls third singles player Layla Shanehsaz.
Finishing the day in second place for the Riders were the girls second singles player Sloan Barton, girls first doubles duo of Grace Widder and Caroline Bennett and boys second singles player Nikola Sijan.
Boys tie for top spot
Boys head coach James Harvey said the team knew coming in that it would be hard to win again.
“We graduated four players from last year and had three freshmen move up to varsity this year,” Harvey said. “I told them to focus and try not to let the nerves get to them.”
The title on the boys side was a nail-bitter until the end as CR and Tatnall were battling it out at second singles and third singles. Tatnall’s Richard Lou defeated CR’s Nikola Sijan in three sets while CR’s Nate Parker bested his Tatnall opponent Scott Battaglia in three sets.
Parker’s title at third singles is his second as he also won last year at first doubles.
“It’s a totally different feeling,” Parker said. “With doubles you’re sharing it with someone. In singles you’re on your own, it’s a very good feeling.”
For Morris, his state title at first singles is his second in two years. “It’s great. It puts me in a great group of guys at CR,” Morris said.
Lady Riders second best in state
For girls coach Zach Taylor, the goal was to come back to states and win the title outright after tying with Tower Hill for first in 2011. However, he’s just as happy with the performance of the Lady Riders this year as he was last year.
“I’m happy with how much they’ve improved from first singles all the way down,” Taylor said. “We’ll take a break, rededicate ourselves, get ready for next season and try to win it again.”
The Lady Riders entered the championship round with their second singles, third singles and first doubles gunning for their respective titles. Sloan Barton at second singles lost a close match at 7-5, 6-4 against her Tower Hill opponent.
The first doubles duo of Grace Widder and Caroline Bennett also lost a close match in which they lost in three sets. For Widder it was a similar scenario as she lost at first doubles to Tower Hill last year in the finals in three sets.
“I’m okay with it. I played my heart out and we gave them a run for their money,” Widder said. “I’m happy with how hard we played.”
Third singles player Layla Shanehsaz claimed the third singles title after her Tower Hill opponent had to stop playing for health reasons. Shanehsaz had taken the first set 6-0 and was up 3-0 in the second set when the match ended.
“It really was a great match and we played enough of the match that I know it wasn’t a fluke. I’m proud of myself and I couldn’t ask for a better way to go out my senior year.”
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.