Moorestown Friends girls tennis building a legacy on and off the court

Moorestown Friends added to its list of accolades by winning a second straight state title on Oct. 18. But the program’s legacy goes far beyond wins and trophies.

Moorestown Friends girls tennis capped off an outstanding 2019 season with a second straight Non-Public B state championship. Pictured from left in the back row: assistant coach Kathleen Gonzalez, sophomore Bella Pescatore, sophomore Roma Jha, senior Renna Mohsen-Breen, senior Elena Styliades, sophomore Skye Mada, junior Lisa Seiler, junior Natalie Julian and head coach Mike Bodary.

The character of Moorestown Friends girls tennis shined during the team’s lowest point of the 2019 season.

After winning a school-record 21 consecutive matches, including a sectional title and a second consecutive Non-Public B state championship, the Foxes lost their first match of the season in the Tournament of Champions final, 4-1, to No. 3 East Brunswick last Wednesday. The loss was disappointing as Moorestown Friends had been ranked as the No. 1 team in New Jersey since the middle of September and was favored to win the program’s first-ever TOC title.

“The first few minutes after the loss was pretty sad,” junior Lisa Seiler, said. “Everyone was sad. But then when we got on the bus, it changed really quickly.”

“They all went to dinner together afterward,” head coach Mike Bodery added.

The ability to come together as a team was the defining characteristic of the 2019 Moorestown Friends girls tennis team. Sitting around a table with the state championship trophy one day after the team’s loss, the team didn’t harp on its season’s lone blemish. Instead, it rejoiced in the team’s success and how a lineup featuring three sophomores, a student from overseas and two strong senior leaders was able to build a lasting legacy.

“I think this was our closest team and I think it’s a big reason we had so much success,” senior Renna Mohsen-Breen said. “We went out there and gave it our all. We knew there were six other players, two coaches and all of our parents out there supporting us. So I think the legacy we’re leaving is pretty cool.”

The foundation for the 2019 team’s success began in 2018, when the program won its first-ever state title. After last year’s historic season, the program had a huge increase in the number of students who wanted to play for the team. Among the many newcomers was Seiler, a talented tennis player from Germany who is attending Moorestown Friends this school year.

Mohsen-Breen admitted the team didn’t know what to expect when Seiler joined the team, but said she immediately gelled with everyone, especially after the preseason challenge matches.

“She beat Elena (Styliades) 6-4 in the third (set) and then was beat by Bella (Pescatore) 6-4 in the third,” Mohsen-Breen said. “They were such close matches. Then we turned around and had a match the next day and were cheering for each other.”

“I could have gone to a different school,” Seiler added about her experience at Moorestown Friends. “I had a really good experience this year. I really liked it.”

It’s easy for teams to be united when they’re winning, but Moorestown Friends was perhaps its tightest during its semifinals match in the Tournament of Champions. After beating Newark Academy for the state title on Oct. 18, Moorestown Friends took on Northern Highlands in the Tournament of Champions semifinal. After dropping both doubles matches, the Foxes needing wins at both first and second singles to advance. Pescatore was struggling in the first set of her second singles match. At first singles, Mohsen-Breen noticed her teammate struggling next to her and felt she needed some encouragement.

“I was paying more attention to Bella’s match than my own,” Mohsen-Breen said with a laugh. “I was trying to pull her through and say, ‘Come on Bella,’ every point.”

Pescatore would rally back, winning the second set and force a 10-point tiebreak for the match. Minutes later, Mohsen-Breen and Pescatore both had match point at the same time.

“I hit a backhand cross court and (Northern Highlands’ Hannah Apsey) hit it out. I screamed ‘Come on!’” Pescatore said. “Then I look over and Renna is serving. She hits an ace and screams, ‘Come on!’ We just looked at each other, then we both screamed and hugged.”

These joyful reactions were common across Moorestown Friends’ entire season. While the team made significant gains on the court in 2019, the strides the Foxes made in building a positive, family-like culture could be the most important legacy this year’s team leaves.