BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Governor Livingston girl’s tennis team currently sits at 12-7, is undefeated in conference play, and ranked No. 8 in their group.

And if you ask head coach Mike Smookler, that’s exactly where he wants to be.

“We knew this year was going to be a test so I challenged the girls and said we’re going to have to step up, we’re really going to have to battle hard and the girls have completely responded to that with fight and a ‘no-quit’ attitude,” said Smookler, who’s in his second year at the helm.

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Smookler has looked to his quartet of seniors to help him lead the team. Victoria Zhou (first singles), Jen Arronow (third singles), Maggie Collins (first doubles) and Becca Radin (second doubles) also serve as co-captains.

The Highlanders hot start continued into the state sectional tournament, of which they advanced to the semifinals after defeating Voorhees on October 10, 3-2 in a come-from-behind victory. The Highlanders eventually fell to Bernards 5-0 in the semifinals.

Smookler’s team has already surpassed the expectations he had prior to the season. After losing last year’s first singles, Jenn Collins, to transfer, Smookler had to do some moving around. Collins had made the singles state tournament two years in a row, so Smookler knew that losing that caliber of talent might effect his team, but that was never the case.

“Losing our No. 1 singles, she just brought everyone’s level up; she was basically an automatic win for every match we played. So I said, if we could just have a winning record, I’d be happy and that’s what we talked about,” Smookler said. “We didn’t talk about what we did last year, we just talked about never quitting and getting better and competing hard and having a winning record, and we’ve exceeded that.”

Currently in position to win the conference, the Highlanders were seeded second in the state sectional tournament, keeping them on track with where they were ranked last year at this point in the season.

Now having been eliminated from the state tournament, the Highlanders will continue with the regular season.