WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield High School girls tennis team will have another chance at a sectional title.
Following a 5-0 victory over fourth-seeded Ridge in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament semifinals, the top-seeded Lady Blue Devils will meet second-seeded J.P. Stevens in the sectional final on Monday, Oct. 14.
“I’m very surprised by the result,” Westfield head coach Matthew Varhley said of the 5-0 victory over Ridge. “Ridge has a very strong team. While both first and second singles struggled early on in the match, they managed to find their games late in the first set. Both doubles teams were dominant in that match.”
In the win over Ridge, Westfield first singles player Sophia Montero rallied to defeat the Red Devils’ Camille Shen, 4-6, 7-5, (10-7). Westfield’s Natalie Zelechowski defeated Tira Alvarez at second singles, 6-4, 6-1. At third singles, the Blue Devils’ Katey Peretz got past Carys Law, 6-0, 7-6 (1).
Doubles players Annika Vesuna, Madison Wright, Mia Fleming and Payton Silverman gained valuable playing experience as the season went on.
“All four doubles players are new to varsity tennis and needed about a dozen matches to learn how to properly play,” Varhley added. “Both teams look very comfortable in their new positions.”
Westfield (15-3) is on a four-match winning streak. It started the season with a 6-0 record and played a very challenging schedule.
That schedule allows Westfield to have success at this time of year.
“I always put together a challenging schedule,” Varhley stated. “It’s not how many matches you win in September, it’s how late in October your team continues to play. Competitive matches provide the strongest possible learning environment. All of our players hit a pretty good ball in practice, but it’s how they execute against other opponents that matters the most to me.”
Varhley said the biggest strength of his team is the senior leadership.
“All four of them [Ava Paul, Carly Burke, Emma Karp and Claudia Millwater] set a great example for how a team is supposed to function,” he said. “USTA [United States Tennis Association] does not provide that roadmap.”
Wesfield is in search of its first sectional title since 2010. The Lady Blue Devils have been on the doorstep and have been to sectional finals since then, including last year, but they have come up just short.
For Varhley, he knows the challenge that lies ahead with this J.P. Stevens group.
“Monday’s sectional final is just another match for this team,” he said. “We expect to play our best at all five positions, and hopefully we play well enough to win three of them. We’re not placing the cart before the horse. J.P. Stevens has an outstanding team. This is going to be a very tight match.”
Westfield will host J.P. Stevens at Tamaques Park at 2 p.m. on Monday.