Tess Fisher lost only three matches during her four-year tennis career for Vineland High School.
The senior capped her scholastic legacy with a New Jersey Individual State Championship, a goal she had chased since she was a freshman.
She also led the Fighting Clan to a South Jersey Group IV championship, their first since 2005.
For these reasons and more, Fisher is the 2017 Press Girls Tennis Player of the Year for the fourth consecutive season.
Fisher won the state title by defeating Holy Angel’s Ashley Hess 6-4, 6-1 at Mercer County Park. She also won the Cape-Atlantic League and Cumberland County individual championships this season, both also for the fourth consecutive season.
“Leading up to it (state championship) each year before, I’ve always come really close to winning,” Fisher said.”It’s been a No. 1 goal for me. In my senior year, I kept saying that this is the only chance left to do it, this is your time, go and do it now. It felt amazing to win and made me feel like everything I’ve done has paid off.
“I never realized it until now since I’ve just been taking it one match at a time. Now that I’m done, I get to look back on everything, and it’s amazing.”
Fisher was named a Vineland captain as a sophomore.
In addition to her individual achievements, she has been adamant about winning with her team and helping her teammates. She never missed a match or practice in her four years. Fisher would share inspirational quotes with teammates in the huddle before a match.
Vineland’s South Jersey title “was the most important accomplishment to me and the team,” she said. “We had good years, and we’ve tied for conference championships and been close to winning South Jersey Group IV. Now that we won it really shows that we came together as a whole, and there’s nothing better than accomplishing things with your team.”
Vineland coach Dominic Massaro responded to challenges.
“We put (together) for her a very demanding schedule,” he said. “I really don’t know if that would have occurred anywhere else, but the matches we set up in conference and the tournaments she went to really did assist her in her quest for the state title.”
Fisher also maintained a 4.3 GPA during this season. Her career record is 158-3, and she has earned a full athletic scholarship to Rutgers University, where she will study sports psychology.
“I’m excited. One of the biggest reasons is going from high school tennis, a team sport, right into a team sport. New team, new people, it’s college. It’s going to be intense, and I’m excited to play girls from all over.”
Team of the Year
The Vineland team also had a great year alongside Fisher.
The Fighting Clan earned the sixth seed in the S.J. Group IV bracket, upsetting No. 3 Eastern Regional 4-1 , No. 2 Cherry Hill East 3-2 and finally No. 1 Egg Harbor Township 3-2 to earn the sectional championship.
Vineland is The Press Girls Tennis Team of the Year.
Vineland finished 19-7 overall and took second place in the CAL American Division. The Fighting Clan’s second doubles team, Kara Kuchinski and Sakshi Thakkar, helped secure the S.J. title by rallying to win 3-6, 7-5 (7-2), 6-3 over Egg Harbor Township’s Asia Lackland and Christine Vu.
“The seniors on our team have been with us for all four years straight,” Massaro said. “All of our players had strong showing in that third week of October. It was a very special time for them.”
“Our No. 2 singles, Priya Patel, had a big win against Cherry Hill East in the playoffs after having a hard time earlier in the season. Tithit Thakkar, our third singles, also had a big win against Cherry Hill and against Eastern, as well the match before. The girls knew that three points were obtainable in each of those upsets we had, and it was just a matter of getting there.”
Massaro said what his players accomplished this season is “be something I think they’ll remember long after high school.”
Coach of the Year
Alene Hartman continued to guide a successful program at Egg Harbor Township this fall.
The Eagles rallied to win the CAL American Division over Vineland, the eventual South Jersey IV champion, and reached the sectional final. EHT finished 18-1 for the second consecutive year.
Hartman is The Press Girls Tennis Coach of the year
“We had a great group of kids and a great year all around,” Hartman said. “When we started this season, one of our goals was to win the Group IV championship. We gave it our best shot and despite losing to Vineland, we still had a lot of tough matches to play in the regular season.
“We also had a rough time with Millville in the playoffs, and that was another team we needed to beat for the CAL American. They were tough matches, and I was proud that they were able to keep their motivation going even in the face of these tough matches.”
Singles players Sarah Phung, Tiffany Trivers and doubles partners Chrisitine Vu and Asia Lackland will graduate in the spring.
“I’m expecting that our first doubles players will be moving up to singles, but you never know,” Hartman said. “We might be lucky enough to have some incoming players that are strong enough to be in the varsity lineup.”