Doubles sweep helps Washington Twp. girls tennis win Gloucester County title

The Minutemaids won their first county championship since 2012 on Sept. 16 as both doubles pairings advanced to the final of the doubles tournament and Laurel DiStefano finished in third place of the singles tournament.

Lexie Wells (left) and Daisy Marrero (right) won the 2018 Gloucester County Girls Tennis Doubles Tournament. Credit: MIKE MONOSTRA/The Sun

Entering this season, Washington Township High School girls tennis hadn’t won the Gloucester County Girls Tennis Tournament team title since 2012.

For the players on the 2018 roster, it felt like an eternity.

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“That’s so long,” junior doubles player Kylee Jones said.

The Minutemaids’ drought ended with a strong performance at the 2018 tournament during the week of Sept. 15. Washington Township won its first county title in six years as both of the Minutemaids’ doubles pairings advanced to the finals of the doubles tournament, and first singles player Laurel DiStefano finished in third place in the singles tournament.

“I’m really proud of all of us,” DiStefano said. “We’ve all been together since freshman year mostly. To see all of us work so hard and improve and it pay off, winning the title, it felt really good.”

The highlight of the tournament for Washington Township was in doubles. Jones and her partner, senior Diana Chan, advanced to the finals to play their teammates, seniors Lexie Wells and Daisy Marrero, for the county championship.

The two doubles teams had played each other frequently in the past. In the preseason, Jones and Chan earned the first doubles spot by edging out Wells and Marrero in challenge matches. However, all of the players admit there’s little difference in the level of play between the two pairings.

“I was kind of shocked,” Wells said when she learned it was an all-Washington Township doubles final. “I knew that (Jones and Chan were) really good because we play them all the time and they play at the same speed and the same pace we do.”

Jones said she had joked at the start of the tournament about the possibility of an all-Washington Township final.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen, even though I was joking about it,” Jones said.

The match was very close, with each set coming down to the wire. Wells and Marrero managed to come out on top of the first set, 7–5. The second set ended up tied, 6–6 and went to a tiebreaker. In the tiebreakers, Wells and Marrero came out on top, 8–6, to win the title. Chan described the match has being very long and intense.

“Each time, we kept going to deuces,” she said.

Marrero said she wasn’t surprised the match was so close.

“It was close both sets,” she said. “We played them before and lost to them and it was close then too.”

On the singles side of the tournament, DiStefano made a run into the semifinals. In that round, she faced off against defending county champion Rebecca Ballier of Glassboro High School, losing 6–3 6–2. DiStefano then played in the third place match and won in straight sets, beating Paisley Wishart of Gateway High School, 6–3 6–4.

“To be able to play so many matches already and win most of them, the only loss I had was the girl who won already,” DiStefano said. “I felt pretty good with myself.”

Playing against each opponent’s top player at first singles, DiStefano has improved her game by looking at the tactics her opponents use against her and trying to use them herself. DiStafano cited an early season match against one of South Jersey’s top players, Pallavi Goculdas of Cherry Hill High School East, as an example.

“She sliced the ball a lot,” DiStefano said. “It almost inspired me to slice more in my game too.”

Washington Township has picked itself up over the last couple of weeks after losing two of its first three matches. Prior to winning the Gloucester County tournaments, the Minutemaids grinded out a pair of close wins over Bishop Eustace Prep and Lenape High School. The players believe winning the county tournament will give the team confidence heading into the season’s second half .

“I feel like it’ll translate all the way through the rest of our season,” DiStefano said. “Just to know we’re the best in the county, it puts an image in our people’s heads too.”

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