Wynnewood >> With heavy expectations heaped upon his Friends’ Central School girls’ tennis squad, second-year head coach Alex Margolies was a bit unsure of what approach to take with the team.
After using the fall of 2015 as an opportunity to get to know a team that would surprise many people and emerge with a Friends’ Schools League crown, Margolies decided a collaborative one would be best using his senior co-captains – Sophie Berger and Zoe Ginsberg – as his main sounding board for a team featuring a mix of key returnees and newcomers to the varsity team.
“I did not have much of plan when I took over last year because there was no expectation. But, I did have an idea of how I wanted the team to look, how I wanted them to act, and how I wanted them to play on the court,” Margolies said. “However this year, I relied much more on the seniors because there was more on the line compared to last year.”
Ginsberg, who played second singles, said, “We liked having a team that just wasn’t run by a coach but by our coach and us. It made it more fun that coach gave us time in the beginning of practice to unwind and talk about our day. It made practice light and that helped us become more of a team. Tennis is an individual sport and also a team sport especially in high school. We all got to get really close and then afterwards we would turn on the competitive side and get going with practice.”
Faced once again with a challenging schedule in which some bumps in the road would occur, Margolies hoped his approach, and the belief his seniors had in his approach, would help the team overcome adversity. He also hoped his approach would spread the message that team success is more important than individual success, especially in high school tennis, where, just like any other team sport, you win and lose as a team.
The new approach paid big dividends as the Phoenix used their untimely 4-1 loss to Moorestown Friends Oct. 7 as proper motivation to earn their second consecutive Friend’s Schools League title with a 5-0 win over Germantown Friends Nov. 1.
“We were coming off a championship and pushing towards another so I believe Coach (Margolies’) approach gave a more relaxed vibe to the whole season,” said Berger, who teamed with freshman Hannah Rossio at second doubles. “With a brand new team and not many returnees, we knew that staying relaxed and calm would get us to where we wanted to be.”
Ginsberg added, “Anybody who knows me knows that I can be a relaxed player on the court. I think the loss to Moorestown Friends served as a wake-up call for me. I knew if we made the playoffs I would be excited to see them again.”
Continuously preaching a team effort, the Phoenix ended the regular season with a four-match winning streak, which allowed for a re-match against the only team that put a blemish on Friends’ Central’s league record.
With the bitter memory entrenched in their mind, the Phoenix delivered a memorable performance, dealing the visiting Foxes a 4-1 defeat, setting up a trip to the league finals.
With Ginsberg and Berger leading the way for a team comprised mostly of underclassmen, the FSL title was definitely a team effort by Friends’ Central. In addition to the aforementioned names, also playing key roles were senior Laura Barr (third singles); junior Claire Coss and sophomore Julia Nierenberg (first doubles) and Rossio, who teamed with Berger at second doubles.
“The idea of team was important,” said Berger. “We kind of struggled with that early on and as the season progressed we grew into the team we wanted to be.”
“Our senior co-captains along with Laura Barr had more impact on this team than they will ever realize,” said Margolies. “The competitiveness they showed after a loss alone trickled down to the rest of the team and I thought that was a big key to our success this year and for the future.”