RANDOLPH, NJ - Chatham's Scarlett Blydenburgh cemented her place as the top girls tennis player in Morris County with her second straight first-singles title at the Morris County Tournament finals held Monday at the County College of Morris.
Blydenburgh's 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 victory over Mendham's Lauren Hassell, a rematch of last year's final, helped Chatham repeat as Morris County Tournament Champions. Chatham edged Mendham, 22-20, for the team title.
Scarlett Blydenburgh talks about first-singles final against Lauren Hassell of Mendham in video below
"It was much harder this year," Chatham coach James Cai said. "Last year, we secured the title before we played the finals because everyone on our team had advanced to the finals."
On Monday, the team and individual titles were on the line and the Lady Cougars were up to the challenge. Emily Sroczynski and Laurel Hickey won at first doubles for Chatham over Jillian Garfunkel and Paige Godau of Montville, 6-3, 6-1.
At second doubles, the Chatham tandem of Chelsea Gilligan and Olivia O'Brien dropped a first-set tiebreaker, but came back to win over Carina Nicolaisen and Ariana Sanjar of Mendham, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 6-3. Chatham freshman Lena Parsch bowed to Mendham's Lindsay Hernandez, 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, in the third-singles final.
Blydenburgh, a 14-year-old sophomore, said some nervousness hurt her in the first set that was decided by a tiebreaker.
"Whenever I was leading, when I got an easy shot I was too nervous so I missed into the net or long," Blydenburgh said. "Then, thankfully, she missed the last shot in the tiebreak. In the first set I was kind of tight and nervous because I know that she would be coming back for revenge, if that's what you call it. I was playing aggressive, but I felt I was playing too aggressive and making errors, so I tried to limit that and played long rallies with her, which made the set so close."
In the tiebreaker. Blydenburgh hit a deep backhand that Hassell couldn't reach, putting her up, 8-7. But she followed with a double fault that made it 8-8. Blydenburgh then hit a forehand winner and Hassell followed with a shot that was long.
"Then, after I won the first set, I felt more confident in my game," Blydenburgh said. "I was attacking the net more, even if I missed the shot because I wanted to show her something. I was down every game in the second set. In the first set, she hit more heavy balls and I played defensively, so there were a lot of long rallies."
Hassell was up, 4-3, in the second set when Blydenburgh reeled off the final three games to close it out, firing a forehand winner for match point.
"I was foreshadowing when I was down, I didn't want her to come back and play three sets like last year," Blydenburgh said. "I just played my game. I hit a lot of hard angles to open up the court and she changed her game by playing more aggressively. Hopeflly, next time we see each other it will be another good match."
At second doubles, the Chatham team of senior Gilligan and freshman O'Brien had to rally after a first-set tiebreaker loss.
"We were definitely down after the first set," O'Brien said. "We needed to motivate ourselves and we did. We kept moving and stayed positive."
When the Mendham duo sliced Chatham's lead to 4-3 in the third set, Gilligan and O'Brien closed it out.
"That's when we were like, 'We need to finish this' and we pulled through," Gilligan said. " We got our first serves in and stayed focused. As a doubles team, we've really come along with our volleys and ground strokes and become really stronger overall."