Egg Harbor Township High School senior Emily Manzo started playing at first singles for the girls tennis varsity squad when she was just 13.
She shared her first day with EHT coach Alene Hartman, who had just started overseeing the girls program.
Now, four years later, the 17-year-old is ending her career with a Cape-Atlantic League title and is The Press Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
“I was a new coach of the girls team after I had coached the boys for a number of years prior,” Hartman said. “Emily was a freshman and she was coming onto the team with a number of girls who had been varsity players for three years. To be honest, I was a little concerned how it would all play out with her jumping over these seniors like that after the challenge matches. In the end, she earned every girl’s respect as both a player and a person.”
Manzo defeated Cedar Creek sophomore Charisse Tigrado in the CAL finals 6-1, 6-1 and finished her senior season 30-4. Prior to that victory she defeated Morgan Grimmie of Holy Spirit, another top contender in the conference, in the semifinals.
“I was so nervous the night before the finals,” Manzo said. “I kept thinking, ‘This is my last high school match and what if I lose, and I really want to win.’ Once I got out on the court and started playing, things started to go how I planned them.”
Prior to her victory, Manzo suffered two CAL finals losses to Vineland graduate Tess Fisher, who now plays at Rutgers University.
“Playing against Tess was one of the best experiences of my life,” Manzo said of the 2017 New Jersey State Champion.
“Although I lost a lot it taught me a lot about myself as a player and showed me the things I needed to work on and get better.”
Manzo also helped lead the Eagles to the South Jersey Group IV championship match where they fell 5-0 to Cherry Hill East.
Before finding her success, Manzo had committed to improving at tennis years prior after her father and coach, Frank Manzo, sat her down along with family friend and fellow coach Paul Tendler to explain that she had the potential to be a top high school player and earn a scholarship for college.
“My dad was a tennis coach at Atlantic City High School and he wanted me and my brother Alex to either be involved in a sport or play an instrument,” Manzo said.
Manzo admitted that at times there were struggles with her decision to pursue tennis.
“You have to make sacrifices to achieve certain goals,” Manzo said. “It was always important to me to play Division I tennis and my dad said that in order to do that I would have to give up things in order to practice and make tournaments. Having your dad as your coach can also be really tough sometimes. If I had a bad practice it might be quiet at dinner that night,” Manzo laughed.
Manzo has committed to Division I Monmouth University in West Long Branch and will play tennis for the Hawks next season.
“I wanted to thank Paul and my dad for all the time they put in,” Emily said.
“Not a lot of people know this about him (Paul), but he’s worked with me since I was in the seventh grade. He takes days out of his week to help me. He does it out of the kindness in his heart and is like a second father figure to me.”
Team of the Year
The Cedar Creek High School girls tennis team reached the South Jersey Group II championship for the first time in the school’s history this season.
The Pirates finished their season 19-2 improving over their 2017 record of 11-8.
Cedar Creek is The Press Girls Tennis Team of the Year.
“There was a combination of things that led to our improvement this year,” coach Nicole Rose said. “There are girls on the team this year that saw the success of program in the past few years and it made them hungry after they didn’t have that success last season. Jenna (Crawford) and Charisse (Tigrado) also stepped up big for us this year.”
Rounding out the Pirates were doubles partners Samantha Eloy and Maddie Palmentieri. The seniors went 15-7 overall and 12-4 in conference at first doubles. Kaliyah Johnson played every match for the Pirates in second singles and the second doubles team was Chloe Golebielwski, a senior, and Kat Pacheco, a junior. Johnson, a senior, finished 12-9 and 9-7 in the CAL.
Coach of the Year
In 2017, Rose stepped down to the assistant coach position at Cedar Creek while her previous assistant coach, Mike Padover, took over to lead the program.
“I have daughters of my own,” Rose said.
Rose’s daughter, Sophia Montag, is 10 and plays for the South Jersey Pride traveling softball team which competes year round. Her other daughter, Grace, is seven and plays in a recreational league.
“I wanted to be there for (Sophia) last year when she was playing,” Rose explained.
“At the start of this season Mike had expressed interest in my coming back to be the head coach and we switched our roles. It took a while to come to terms with it and after talks with my family I decided to go back. It’s a big commitment coaching out there. You’re not able to be home for dinner, but it’s part of the job. How can you say no when you have a great team and working with the kids is so great.”
Rose finished her eighth year as head coach after starting when Cedar Creek opened in 2010. Since then, she has a 116-44 record overall and earned her 100th career win this season in a 5-0 victory against Holy Spirit on September 17th.
Rose is this year’s Press Girls Tennis Coach of the Year.
“The best part was I didn’t even know I had gotten my 100th win,” Rose said. “I had no idea what my record was so we decided to tally it up during the season and we found out it (100th win) had happened.”