An extra sweet Senior Day: Moorestown repeats as South Group 3 champions

Moorestown’s senior-heavy lineup celebrates Senior Day with a second straight sectional title.

Moorestown poses for a team photo with the championship trophy after winning the South Jersey Group 3 final over Shawnee last Tuesday.

When organizing Moorestown girls tennis’ 2019 Senior Day earlier this year, the junior class decided to schedule it for Oct. 15, the team’s second-to-last home match of the season against Pemberton Township. It didn’t realize Oct. 15 would be the day Moorestown would play in the South Jersey Group 3 final if they made it that far.

The Pemberton match was cancelled once Moorestown advanced to the sectional final against Shawnee. Rather than reschedule Senior Day, Moorestown decided to carry on with the festivities. It ended up being a fitting occasion. The Quakers won their second consecutive sectional title, 4-1, over Shawnee, with a lineup composed mostly of seniors who have played a huge role in making Moorestown a state title contender again over the past two seasons.

“It just made it 10 times more special,” first doubles player Julia Sullivan said of the Senior Day arrangement. “To be able to finish this huge match with everyone supporting us, our friends and family … it felt so much better.”

Moorestown High School athletic director Shawn Counard gives the South Jersey Group 3 championship trophy to Quakers’ head coach Steve Dickerson after Moorestown’s victory over Shawnee.

This year’s senior class got to experience the full gamut of emotions during their four years with Moorestown. With Moorestown competing in Central Jersey Group 3 in 2016 and 2017, the Quakers failed to win a sectional title both years, snapping a 27-year run of consecutive sectional championships. Shifting back to South Jersey Group 3 in 2018, Moorestown became sectional champions again and made a run all the way to the Group 3 state final before falling to Millburn.

Though the team had plenty of success last year, the seniors described this year’s team as the tightest they’ve been a part of.

“We’ve bonded really well, even with JV, we’ve done everything together,” senior second singles player Grace Leese said. “It’s been a great season. I think we’ve done more together than we’ve ever done in the past.”

Moorestown’s Grace Leese serves during her second singles match.

Moorestown’s success went far beyond team bonding. The team’s win over Shawnee was their 20th of the season. It was the first time the Quakers have won 20 or more matches in a season since 2015. An Oct. 1 loss to the state’s No. 1 team, Moorestown Friends, was Moorestown’s only loss to a South Jersey opponent all season. Moorestown’s all-senior first doubles team of Sullivan and Julia McBride also won a major title this year when they won the doubles tournament at the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships in September.

First singles senior Emma Regovich believes the team’s failure to win a sectional title in 2016 and 2017 was a major motivating factor the past two seasons.

Emma Regovich of Moorestown winds up for a backhand.

“Losing the first two years, we really wanted to win,” Regovich said. “But coming out and finishing strong (is great).”

The four seniors who competed in last Tuesday’s sectional final (Regovich, Leese, Sullivan and McBride) were also part of the 2018 state finalist team and head coach Steve Dickerson believes their experience played a huge role in their 2019 success.

“You go into a match and you know what you’re going to get,” Dickerson said. “You’re going to get Emma and her aggressive play. You’re going to get Grace’s smart, high tennis IQ. You’re going to get Julia McBride’s double tactics that she implements. On down the line, they’re so solid. It’s going to be a big void to fill next year.”

The only way the Quakers’ senior class could make the season even sweeter is by winning a state title, something Moorestown hasn’t done since 2003. To earn a state title, the Quakers will first have to defeat North Jersey 1 Group 3 champion Northern Highlands in the state semifinals Thursday morning. If they win, a rematch with perennial powerhouse Millburn Thursday afternoon is likely.

“I think a lot of people expect us to be underdogs,” Sullivan said. “But I think our whole mentality this season is that we’re here to win it. We have the mentality going in that we’re going to win the state championship.”