At about 8 years old, Bella Pescatore listened along with fellow tennis camp students in College Park, Maryland, as a coach at the camp went over different parts of the game and spoke with them about their potential futures with respect to tennis.
He asked a question he hoped would prompt some introspection in the young players, namely who among the group wanted to eventually play collegiate tennis. Pescatore and others raised their hands, and from that group, the coach inquired about who wanted to play Division I tennis.
“I just remember raising my hand really, really high at that moment,” Pescatore said, with a laugh. “It’s been a dream of mine for a long time now.”
Now, after a stellar high-school career at Moorestown Friends School, including a near-perfect senior year, Pescatore will head to Mount St. Mary’s University to make her dream come true a decade later after that tennis camp.
For that, Pescatore is South Jersey Sports Weekly’s 2021 Girl’s Tennis Player of the Year. The senior went 35-1 this season en route to setting a program best record for either the boys or girls teams at Moorestown Friends.
Looking back, head coach Mike Bodary remembers learning that Pescatore would be coming to the school shortly before the start of her freshman year. Pescatore was the close friend and training partner of an older girl already on the team, Renna Mohsen-Breen. Pescatore had previously been ranked the best girls tennis player in the state at one point for her age group, and was ready to make the jump to high-school tennis.
She credits much of her success to learning from Mohsen-Breen in the two years they played together for the Foxes, as well as to Bodary for his guidance over the years.
“It was a pretty tough transition to Moorestown Friends School in general, with me being from Washington Township, but it really helped knowing that I had tennis to rely on from day one and that I had a teammate as nice as [Renna] to be alongside me,” Pescatore said.
“We had a great team my first two years so it was great to have a team like that and more specifically a teammate like her. She was a great role model to look up to. I knew going into my senior year that I wanted to be just like her.”
Now, the two share South Jersey Sports Weekly girls tennis player of the year honors, with Mohsen-Breen having won the award in 2019, during her senior year.
Following her 35-win season in the fall, Pescatore ended her career at Moorestown with a final record of 106-7, according to Bodary, an impressive mark to reach considering the team played just five matches during her junior season because of COVID.
“She always played really well and worked harder than you would believe,” Bodary said. “She really blended in well with the girls and was always about helping out the team.
“It was fun to watch her develop not just in her game, but as a leader and as a teammate that others look up to.”
Over the past season, Pescatore won the Burlington County Open and the South Jersey Interscholastic Championship, while making it to the quarterfinals of the state singles championships for the second time in her career.
Pescatore went unbeaten during her career in Friends League play while being a four-time South Jersey Tennis Coaches Association all-star and part of two state championship teams during her freshman and sophomore years.
“Looking back, I’m just amazed at everything that happened and it was all so worth it,” Pescatore said. “It was really difficult mentally and physically, especially since I knew going in that a few of those matches had some really tough opponents, but I’m proud of myself that I was able to do all this … and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my team throughout the year and especially without Coach Bodary. He was the best coach I could’ve had the past four years.”