By the end of the girls tennis season, Our Lady of Mercy Academy senior Bridget Dandrea will have set the bar high for those who play after her.
The 17-year old Longport resident captured her 69th career victory at first singles Wednesday with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Pleasantville’s Julia Monroe.
With six regular-season matches left, Dandrea could reach as many as 75 wins and could extend that number with a deep run in the Cape-Atlantic League Individual Tournament on Oct. 23-25.
“I don’t think anyone else in program history had more than 30 wins,” coach Sam Miles said by phone Tuesday. “No one else has been like her here at all.”
Dandrea, who first played competitive tennis her freshman year at OLMA, picked up the game immediately. After sitting out the first four matches because of a surfing injury, she won challenges to reach the first-singles spot.
From there, she went on to win 15 matches and earn a spot on The Press honorable-mention team. As a sophomore, she went 16-7 and moved up to The Press second team. Her junior year, she did even better, going 20-6 and reaching the league individual tournament quarterfinals for another second-team nod.
“I think she’s improved each year, in my estimation,” Miles said. “She’s gotten stronger and I give that to her attitude toward tennis. She wants to play tennis all day long.”
In the offseason, Dandrea was picked as one of the top players in the league. Some were surprised when she lost in straight sets to Sacred Heart junior Amanda Goff in the first match of the year. But Dandrea wasn’t going to let that loss define her season. She used it as motivation to win her next 12 matches, including a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Goff on Oct. 3.
Dandrea has 12 straight-set victories, including five shutouts.
She also showed she can come up in big moments with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win over Oakcrest’s Connie Capone.
The Villagers (6-9) are in their fifth season as a program.
“I honestly feel like this is such an accomplishment, not only for me, but my school,” Dandrea said. “I feel like it acts like a motivator for other girls to say it’s possible and think it can be done. They can strive to get there if they really just work hard and put the time and effort in.”
On Sept. 24, the Falcons lost 4-1 to Ocean City and were looking at a 5-5 record. Since then, Oakcrest has won six of its past seven matches to improve to 11-6 and reach the South Jersey Group III semifinals. Oakcrest will visit top-seeded Moorestown, No. 4 in The Press Elite 11, at 3 p.m. today.
The Press of Atlantic City archives, dating back to 2000, show that Oakcrest hasn’t had a winning record since at least that long ago. In 2009, the Falcons were 11-12. Some seasons, such as 2003-2004 and 2008, the program had zero wins.
Second-year coach Tony Ponzetti credits his solid foundation at singles and hard work at doubles.
Rachel Filippone and Hira Zeb won five consecutive games Tuesday for a come-from-behind win at first doubles to give Oakcrest a 3-2 edge over Cumberland Regional (14-3) in a South Jersey Group III quarterfinal.
“This year, our team has better prepared than my first year as head coach,” Ponzetti said in a text message Wednesday. “The team knew what to expect from me. I focused on playing-performance goals, rather than outcome goals. Winning would result from achieving performance improvements such as footwork, controlling ball direction, solid contact, etc.”
“Some girls took lessons to improve their skills, some played tournaments in the area. Others just hit more balls and worked on their fitness. Singles has been our foundation this year and an important goal for our team was to be more competitive at doubles, which we have been steadily improving at.”
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