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Beach tennis season comes to an end

October 17, 2012

The streak had to end sometime.

In the past four years, Point Beach won four straight sectional titles in girls tennis. On Tuesday, the team was going for its fifth straight, but lost, 3-2, to No. 1 ranked Metuchen on the road in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Group I sectional finals. The Garnet Gulls were ranked No. 2, and the loss marks the end of the season for Point Beach.

Point Beach’s only victories came in the first and second singles matches. Senior Elizabeth Tell breezed past Metuchen junior Catherine Popow, 7-5, 6-3. At second singles, senior Katie Gaal battled with junior Danielle Allgauer for just more than three hours, pulling away with a 6-7 [2-7], 6-4, 7-6 [7-1] win.

“We talked about this match and we knew it was going to be tight,” Point Beach head coach Kim Pellerito said. “We knew the first and second singles had a good chance, and somebody else had to come up big. We weren’t sure who was really going to do that.”

Gaal dropped a heartbreaker in the first set only to dominate in the second. The third was back and forth. Gaal jumped ahead early, 2-1. However, Allgauer won the next two to move in front, 3-2. Gaal answered with two wins of her own to take a 4-3 lead, until eventually pulling away for the win.

Tell was the only player on the Gulls’ tennis team that kept Pellerito’s blood pressure low, winning with ease.

“I think Elizabeth [Tell] played especially great today and I expected nothing less from her,” Pellerito said. “I knew if she stayed steady and stuck to her game plan, she would be OK. She wavered in the beginning and I don’t think she was comfortable in the first set, but once she got comfortable, she was on cruise control from there.”

Point Beach struggled in third singles, as well as first and second doubles. Bulldog sophomore Anna Popow, the younger sister of Catherine, pulled away with a 6-1, 6-3 victory in third singles over senior Julie Verni. Also, Metuchen’s Synthia Delgado and Tiffany Yao quickly pulled out a 6-4, 6-2 win over Point Beach sophomore Chloe Johnson and senior Kaitlin Stone.

This put tons of pressure on the Bulldogs and Gulls at second doubles. Metuchen clinched the match when seniors Jules Richards and Averi Chan came away with a 6-3, 6-7 [3-7], 6-3 victory over juniors Anna Morris and Katie Bottrell. In the final set, Point Beach jumped out to a 1-0 lead, but the Bulldogs pulled out four straight wins and the Gulls were unable to recover.

After the game, Bottrell admitted, “the pressure is always on us,” with Gaal and Tell as consistent winners at first and second singles and the team needing another win to clinch an overall victory.

When first doubles was off the court, Bottrell and Morris knew the match was up to them. But, a few bad serves and key points not going the Gulls’ way caused the team to struggle. Richards also had spin of her serve, making it difficult for the Beach team to react.

Metuchen advanced to the Group I finals against South I champ Pennsville on Thursday at Mercer County Park.

Point Beach will now graduate four starters in Tell, Gaal, Verni and Stone. The team returns three of four doubles players in Johnson, Bottrell and Morris, who will all most likely play in singles matches next season. Pellerito said the Gulls have a lot to be proud of this season.

“We wanted to win conference, do well in the Ocean County Tournament and reach the second round of states,” Pellertio said. “Today, we are here in the finals. We exceeded expectations.”

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