Haddonfield Memorial High School tennis coach Jeff Holman likes to keep his players active once school gets underway in September and then keep them active for the duration of the season.
Haddonfield played five matches in five days during the first week of the season. (It would have been six in five days, but one match was canceled).
In week two, the Bulldawgs played seven matches. In the third week of the season, Haddonfield had matches each day of the school week, Monday through Friday, and then took part in the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships in Vineland that weekend.
“There are some teams that only have one match a week and we play them every single day,” Haddonfield senior Gillian Rozenfeld said.
“I like that,” junior Lily Hanna said. “I think it makes us successful.”
The Bulldawgs take on Colonial Conference foes, they play in every in-season tournament available, they schedule matches against every top South Jersey tennis team, and they take on matchups with out-of-area foes, too, like Princeton Day School and The Lawrenceville School, too.
The latter match, against a preparatory boarding school, resulted in a 5-0 defeat, the team’s first 5-0 loss since over a year earlier, also to Lawrenceville. And it came on the eve of the team’s sectional championship match.
“It keeps them humble,” Holman said of a competitive and constant schedule.
It also builds championships.
Haddonfield’s senior-laden girls team scored a 5-0 win over Seneca in the South Jersey Group 2 championship match in less than an hour of work on Tuesday afternoon. Molly Parks (first singles) and Rozenfeld (second singles) each won their matches 6-1, 6-1, Hanna (third singles) lost just one game in two sets, as did the first doubles team of Anna Swartley and Stella DeMarco, while the second doubles team of Kate Morris and Anna Tucker won 6-0, 6-2.
The Bulldawgs will play North Jersey Group 2 champ Demarest at 11 a.m. on Thursday in the state semifinals at Mercer County Park.
The sectional title was the 17th in a row for Haddonfield’s prestigious program. Since 1975, a year before Holman came aboard — the job only became available when the field hockey coach had to choose between hockey and tennis when tennis moved to a fall season sport — Haddonfield has won a remarkable 39 South Jersey sectional championships in 44 seasons.
“It’s really an honor,” Parks said. “It’s great playing under Mr. Holman, he’s an amazing coach. It’s just a great program.”
It’s a program that Parks and her fellow singles players at Haddonfield had been aware about since they were young enough to pick up a racket. Parks’ mom (Susan Parks) played first singles at Haddonfield during her high school career, just like her daughter. Ditto Rozenfeld’s mom (Phoebe Figland) and Hanna’s mom (Karen Wallace): they played the same positions as their daughters at Haddonfield. And all six — mothers and daughters — played under Holman.
“It’s definitely a tennis town,” Molly Parks said. “A lot of kids grow up playing tennis and Mr. Holman as a coach, he’s kind of iconic. If you grow up in Haddonfield, you know they have a good tennis coach.”
And you also know you’re always going to have a match, no matter what day it is. Even on Tuesday, when most other teams played their varsity sectional title matches and went home, Haddonfield hosted Seneca players for more than half dozen junior varsity matches when the courts became open while the varsity players posed for championship trophy photos.
With seven of his top nine players graduating in June, Holman knows he has to keep filtering talent into the varsity roster.
“I have close to 40 kids on the team, we have 15 others on the other side practicing,” Holman said. “With that many players, there’s always a chance that some of them are going to want to get good, work hard in the offseason and be ready to step up for somebody. … We try to get the JV kids involved. If they just sit around and watch, that’s not really going to prepare them for the next level.”
And so they play matches, just as everyone at Haddonfield does from the first day of school until they’re proudly raising their championship trophies in mid-October.