By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The Lower Cape May Regional High School girls tennis team completed an extremely special season Monday afternoon.
A 4-1 victory over Cedar Creek finished off an unbeaten run over 16 matches in the Cape-Atlantic National Conference. Lower Cape May had clinched the conference title last week.
The conference championship is the program’s first since 1993.
Lower finished 19-2 overall. Both losses came to Cumberland, one in the regular season and another in the semifinal round of the South Jersey Group II Tournament.
“In the beginning of the season, I never expected to do what we did, especially since we had two freshmen and a sophomore with very little experience in the lineup,” Lower coach Greg Douglass said. “But knowing we had all of our singles players back, we knew we could be very competitive in every match.
“I thought halfway through the season we’d be a better team. But we got off to a quick start and that helped us gain confidence. We had four scrimmages against some good schools and then we had some solid wins right off the bat.”
Junior Sam Mancuso emerged as one of the top first singles players in the National Conference. Junior Vika Simonsen lost just once all season at second singles. And senior Delaney Brown was the top third singles player in the league, going unbeaten in conference matches.
First doubles players Marley Kronemeyer, a junior, and Ina Nikolova, a freshman, also lost just twice and won all of their conference matches.
At second doubles, sophomore Jayci Shivers and freshman Maddie Gilbert won 16 of their 21 matches.
Also part of the team were freshmen Melanie Ortiz-Marino and Camryn Thomas.
“Nobody missed a practice, nobody missed a match, nobody missed a scrimmage,” Douglass said. “We were fortunate not to have any problems with COVID and we had no hiccups to our season. The commitment was there. The girls worked hard and got better.”
Douglass was quick to credit his brother, Scott, his assistant coach, to the team’s success.
“Having two coaches is huge,” Douglass said. “I would consider him a head coach, too. He knows tennis as well as anybody. Having two coaches is a big advantage for us because it allows you to do so much more in practice. A lot of schools only have one. It makes a big difference.”