Both Kardinal doubles teams win Hudson County championships
By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Perhaps the toughest aspect of the game of tennis is playing doubles. With a singles player, you just grab your racket, take to the court and go.
In doubles, there are a lot of factors to consider. There’s teamwork, camaraderie and togetherness. There’s timing and chemistry. There’s communication at the highest level.
“It takes patience,” said Kearny High School head girls’ tennis coach Amy Lasker. “You need someone who is a good listener, someone who is trustworthy. It takes a lot of teamwork and trust in each other. It’s one of the most difficult positions to be in tennis.”
There’s also the strategy behind pairing one player with another. For example, on the Kearny team this year, sophomore Mallory McBride and junior Jessica Martinez were first-year members with the varsity. Both girls had to find their own bearings before worrying about the proper pairing for doubles.
“I think the key is being supportive of each other,” McBride said. “We also worked hard.”
“Honestly, there was a little bit of doubt whether we could do it,” Martinez said. “We didn’t know each other well, so we didn’t know if it would work out.”
But Lasker saw something in her doubles teams.
Lasker paired senior returnee Gabriella Robles with Martinez for the first doubles team and then placed senior Monica Shenoda with McBride for second doubles.
The strategy worked out brilliantly, as both Kearny doubles teams won their respective flight in the recent Hudson County Tournament championships. It was the first time ever that Kearny won both doubles county titles.
“They all had great teamwork,” Lasker said. “I think it helped that there was a senior with the younger girls to help with their confidence. Gabriella has a champion’s attitude. She doesn’t like to lose and she’s always working. Jessica has the same attitude, so it’s good that they’re together. They work well together.
Added Lasker, “Monica and Mallory are both a little softspoken and less emotional, so it’s good that they’re together. They’re both a little more strategy oriented.”
It also helps that the Kardinals have had incredible success this fall. They are currently undefeated in dual matches, winning all nine of their contests.
“They all have a little bit of confidence now, playing together,” Lasker said.
The Kardinals just defeated Belleville, 4-1, in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state playoffs and will now face Ridgewood in the second round. By virtue of that undefeated 9-0 team mark, the Kardinals were the No. 6 seed in the bracket.
“It’s the highest seed Kearny ever received,” Lasker said.
First singles player Valeria Siquenza qualified for the NJSIAA state tournament in first singles.
So it’s been a great year all around, capped by the two doubles teams winning county crowns.
“It feels really good,” said Shenoda, who attends High Tech in North Bergen and has to shuttle back and forth in order to play tennis in her home school district. “Going into the season, I think some of us were a little hesitant, but now that we’ve won, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Shenoda was asked what it was like to worry about getting from North Bergen to Kearny in time to practice and play in matches.
“Sometimes, it gets pretty hard,” Shenoda said. “I have to leave school early in order to get to Kearny in time for a match. But I love this sport and I love this team. I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else other than the girls from Kearny.”
Martinez knows what the most important aspect is of being a successful doubles partner.
“Communication is the key,” Martinez said. “You really have to be able to get along. It’s all set in now that we won, set in, but in a good way.”
Shenoda believes that the county title is the culmination of a lot of effort.
“This is something I’ve wanted for a long time,” Shenoda said. “It’s our biggest goal and it’s still a little hard to believe that we did it.”
“It took a lot of hard work to get here,” Robles said. “We all became friends on and off the court. I think that helps. We were all very positive and I’m very proud of that.”
The Kearny girls had reason to be proud. They achieved a slice of history, both earning county championships at the same time.
Lasker said that there’s another reason for the girls to be proud.
“A lot of them never played tennis before high school,” Lasker said. “I think it shows that hard work and determination can pay off. They’re all finally seen by everyone as being successful.”
Not just successful – but successful Hudson County champions.