The Ocean City High School girls tennis team isn’t ready to relinquish its Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title from a year ago.

The Red Raiders, who faced some uncertainty at the start of the season, have put themselves in position to repeat as conference champions.

Ocean City, No. 11 in The Press Elite 11, lost three varsity players to graduation and its first-doubles team of junior Leah Kornberg and senior Lauren Loggi, first-team Press All-Stars, completed the singles ladder behind returning No. 1 player senior Gabby DuBruille.

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After losing 3-2 to Mainland Regional on Sept. 10, a 4-1 victory over conference contender Egg Harbor Township on Sept. 27 kept the Red Raiders in the race. A 4-1 victory over Mainland Regional on Oct. 12 put them atop the standings.

“In the beginning, I would say it was definitely an adjustment for everyone,” fourth-year coach Samantha Newgas said in a phone interview Tuesday. “There were a lot of nerves. I feel like we gained a lot of confidence, but we have to make sure we channel that energy in a positive way (going into the end of the season).”

Ocean City is 14-2 overall and has three conference matches left starting today at Atlantic City (0-13), Friday at home against Oakcrest (13-8) and Monday at EHT (14-2).

DuBruille has been consistent with a year of experience under her at the top spot and is 15-4. Kornberg has been clutch at second singles. She is undefeated in the regular season

and is 17-1 overall. Loggi has been solid at No. 3 singles going 13-3 and 14-4 overall.

Senior Eva Nusbaum moved from second doubles to first doubles this season and is paired with junior Olivia Pawling, a former JV player.

Nusbaum went 19-4 overall and made it to the CAL Individual Tournament semifinals with former partner Heather Mazzeo, who graduated. Her experience is paying off as Nusbaum and Pawling are 16-2 this season.

Cat Gleason and Sarah Redmond also have come through in big moments and are 11-5-1 at second doubles.

“I knew some of our strongest girls graduated, but we all worked very, very hard during the offseason to make our team as strong as possible,” said Nusbaum, a 17-year old Upper Township resident,.

“There were two spots opened up in the singles area and all of us were fighting over them. So I think that’s what made us so strong and it made our team even stronger.”

Ocean City finished last season with a 17-2 record, something Newgas said hasn’t been done since 1983. With the success the team has so far, her coaching record is 55-18.

“It gives a lot of attention to the program,” Newgas said. “This is my fourth year coaching these girls. So the girls who were freshmen when I started are now seniors. So it would mean a lot to go out with a bang with the same group I started with.”

“It’s exciting to see her succeed, too, as she coaches us all these years and taught us new things,” said DuBruille, a 17-year-old Upper Township resident. “She’s taught us a bunch of strategies and how to be a team. I’ve enjoyed having her as a coach.”

A charitable side

Not only has Barnegat continued its Challenger League tennis lessons once a week, but the team is extending its community service efforts even further.

Former Barnegat head coach Sue Rogers implemented free lessons for disabled students in 2009.

For the second season in a row, the Bengals will participate in a walk for the American Cancer Society on Saturday in Point Pleasant Beach.

“It’s nice to get together with everyone from Barnegat to play tennis and have fun,” senior third-singles player Marlena Brazill said Wednesday.

“And with the cancer walk, we have a blast doing it and we know it’s going to to a good cause so it’s another win-win situation. Sure it’s a lot of effort, but that’s what sports are and that's what life is.”

A look ahead

The Tri-County Conference Individual Tournament is Saturday and Sunday at Williamstown. Cumberland Regional, the Diamond Division champion, will compete.

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