Moorestown Friends’ Bella Pescatore wins SJIC singles title

Senior also won Burlington County Open earlier this season

Matthew Shinkle/South Jersey Sports Weekly: Moorestown Friends’ Bella Pescatore captured first singles titles this year in both the Burlington County Open and South Jersey Interscholastic Championships, both of which coach Mike Bodary says he thought Pescatore had the potential to do at the start of the season.

It’s been a banner year for Moorestown Friends’ Bella Pescatore in her senior season for the Foxes, securing first singles titles in both the Burlington County Open and, most recently, the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships, both for the first times in her career.

The success Pescatore has achieved thus far this season is well deserved for a great player on a strong team, but looking back at what the past year or so has been like for the senior, she remembers coming into this season simply hoping to be able to play more matches than the previous season provided for her and her teammates due to COVID.

“Last year we didn’t really have much of a season, I only played in seven matches all season,” Pescatore said. “So coming into this season, I was just excited to play in general. Because of that short season last year it was also difficult to get a feel for how the team would be this year so again, I didn’t have many expectations for myself or the team honestly.

“I was looking forward to just enjoying myself on the court for one final year and going out there really fighting for myself and my team to make the best of the season that I had,” Pescatore added. 

Pescatore had previously made the final round of the SJIC tournament when it was last played in 2019 while playing at second singles as a sophomore, losing to then-teammate Renna Mohsen-Breen, who Pescatore credited as a big role model in helping make Pescatore both a better tennis player and team leader in the years since. 

“I always remember looking up to her and learning a lot from her when I was younger on the team so I think this year especially, I wanted to be a role model much like she was that a lot of the younger girls could look up to,” Pescatore said. “And it was rewarding to see the team improve throughout the season and also just come closer together as a whole with the help of the other two captains in Skye [Mada] and Kathryn [Sebastian].”

Now, two quick years later, Pescatore captured her own SJIC title after defeating Schalick’s Molly Jespenrsen in straight 6-0, 6-0 sets. Jespersen, a childhood friend of Pescatore after training together at a young age, was a welcome opponent to see on the other side of the net during her last tennis match of the season, according to the senior.

“I grew up with Molly since I was about six or seven so it was honestly great that the last match of my regular high school season was against her,” Pescatore said. “She played great throughout the tournament… I knew it was going to be fun that last match when I saw she was who I’d play in the finals, no matter what the result was.”

Moorestown Friends School coach Mike Bodary, in the midst of his 13th year at the helm of the program, said he had a strong belief that Pescatore would be successful during her senior season after the talent she had displayed in recent years.

“I expected her to do real well this year unless there was some super freshman or someone who didn’t play last year that came out of nowhere,” Bodary said. “Throughout the season, we got to play all the tough teams and I kind of got a good idea that she was the player in the area as she kept winning… and she only lost one match all year which was in the state quarterfinals, so she’s had quite the year.” 

Finishing the season with a 16-5 record, Bodary said he tried to schedule as many tough matches earlier in the year as possible so as to best prepare the team for end of the season tournaments and sectionals when they came, something he feels paid off perfectly, thanks to not only their play but also the leadership of the senior girls over the course of the year.

“I wanted to try to get as many touch matches as possible early in the year, so we played the Moorestown Classic and Haddonfield Invitationals, both of which we were unfortunately missing a few varsity players at,” Bodary said. “But it gave them experience and I wanted them to have already been prepared to play tough teams so that by the time the year is ending they’re ready.”