NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Coach Mike Mitchell is looking at this as a transition year for the New Brunswick High School girls tennis team.
Without any seniors on the roster and trying to replace five or six top players who graduated from last season’s squad, the focus will be on working hard every day to improve rather than wins and losses.
Mitchell said through the inevitable peaks and valleys of a tennis season – even one shortened because of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association mandates in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic – the team is determined to go through it together.
“This group is such a family-oriented group,” Mitchell said. “They laugh together. They’re silly. And when one hurts, they all feel it. I've always wanted a team like that. And I've had some that were close, but this team is definitely very cohesive.”
The Zebras, playing a White Division schedule in the Greater Middlesex Conference this fall, are off to an 0-3 start after losses to Woodbridge, John F. Kennedy-Iselin and Perth Amboy.
They are preparing to face Edison on Thursday at 4 p.m. and Sayreville on Friday at 4 p.m.
One constant for the Zebras has been junior Ashley Caldwell.
Caldwell was an All-GMC Red Division selection last year, and she’s off to a flying start this fall.
She has lost just five games in defeating Woodbridge’s Stephanie Beresford, Kennedy’s Palak Grover and Perth Amboy’s Charlize Leon.
“She's hitting the ball with a lot more confidence,” Mitchell said on the eve of the season opener. “She's cut down on errors. She's a lot more confident in what she's doing. I think even though playing in the Red Division with stiff competition benefited our team, I think it benefited her more than anything else because it made her have to get better.”
With Caldwell leading the way, two other juniors, Kaitlyn Black (No. 2 singles) and Jada McBride (No. 3 singles) are showing a lot of improvement.
Angeles Pinas, Iris Pelaez Aragon, Aracely Romero, Emely Garcia and Amairany Morales Aparicio have been seeing time at doubles.