There appears to be a sense of optimism surrounding the Pope John High School girl’s tennis program that is strong, durable, indeed built upon a solid foundation this season-and for good reason. The Lions, with first year coach Maureen Ferguson at the helm, features a solid mix of student athletes tested at the varsity level as well as newcomers to the team who are preparing mightily for the rigors of the varsity tennis game.
Pope John was very competitive in 2018, having finished the year with an overall record of 6-3 and advancing to the NJSIAA North Non Public A Sectional Tournament where they were defeated by Dwight-Englewood. Key returning players for the Lions this year include Alexa Manchak (singles, junior), Katherine Brennan (singles, junior), Madison Robinson (doubles, junior), Emily Mundt (senior, doubles), Sophia Ippolito (doubles, senior), Christine Hruby (doubles, sophomore) and Carolyn DiPietro (doubles, senior). Madison Krzanowski (singles, freshman) and Norene Williams (doubles, freshman) are among the promising newcomers for Pope John.
“Under the veteran leadership of Katherine Brennan, Alexa Manchak, Emily Mundt and Madison Robinson, we will have a great season,’’ Ferguson said. “These girls are talented, highly motivated and more than ready to begin.
“They have been welcoming and supportive to our new players, both on the court and off. Each one is a natural leader in their own individual way. I’m very proud of how they’ve conducted themselves at practice and how they have jelled as a team.’’
The Lions compete in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Freedom Division along with Sparta, Sussex Tech, Kittatinny and Lenape Valley.
“Being a new coach, I am not at all familiar with the other teams,’’ Ferguson said. “But as is tradition, Pope John will always want to beat Sparta, and vice versa. You can’t beat the competition between an age old cross town rival.’’
On Sept. 13, they are scheduled to travel to face Sparta in an NJAC Freedom Division match. Pope John is scheduled to host Kittatinny in an NJAC Freedom Division match on September 17. On September 19, the Lions have a road match at High Point before starting competition in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament on Sept. 21.
“Our goals include a successful season, making (NJSIAA) States and then going farther than they did last year at States,’’ Ferguson said. “We have a lot of talent, both old and new. I’m very proud of all they have accomplished thus far.’’