By its nature tennis is an individualistic sport.
Most of the time for accomplished players in junior tennis there’s no teammate with you. There’s no coach on the court.
Sure, there are team goals, but most of the time talented players are focused on their UTR ranking, their chances of qualifying for states in singles.
Which makes what Methacton sophomore Alice Liang and freshman Hana Nouaime did all that more remarkable in this most unusual of seasons.
Due to the shortened season and concerns over the COVID-19 virus players had to choose between competing in singles or doubles.
Nouaime and Liang it turns out made a pretty good decision, not only winning the District 1-3A title, but then coming within one set of winning the PIAA 3A title. For their efforts this season they are The Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Co-Players of the Year.
“I feel like we both agreed we would have a better chance of getting further in districts doing doubles,” Nouaime said. “We weren’t sure to expect. We didn’t know any of the players (in the district).”
Both came to Methacton as accomplished players in the USTA circuit and just as a freshman Nouaime didn’t lose a singles match. Liang playing No. 1 in what turned out to be the challenging PAC did lose two matches on the season, but one was to eventual state champ Spring-Ford.
“They felt their best chance was to play doubles,” Methacton Head Coach Jill Walker. “I said, ‘Hey, go for it.’ Their games match up so well with each other. They just kept winning and winning. It’s always fun to get that far.”
If their first match was to be any indication, the decision was a no-brainer. They won 6-0, 6-0 over an Upper Dublin duo, which would be the first of three 6-0, 6-0 victories in their postseason. The Warriors duo could’ve blinked in the second round, but persevered to a three-set win over Pennsbury’s Megan Walsh and Kyra Workman. That set up a trip to the finals and a victory over CR South’s Dasha Chichkina and Emma Traktovenko 6-3, 7-6.
“Everyone is taught to hit the ball super hard now,” Walker said. “It’s interesting to see how it transfers to doubles. They weren’t afraid to come to net, they served and volleyed. Alice and Hana played real doubles. I can’t take credit for that. I was impressed how well they worked together.”
Next, it was on to Hershey where no nerves appeared to be showing in their first two matches as they didn’t drop a game.
“We were super nervous, at least I was,” Nouaime said. “We didn’t know about a lot of the players. We only knew the ones we played in the finals.”
That match was definitely worthy of a final as Nouaime and Liang persevered to win the first set 7-5 despite being down 4-2. However, they couldn’t hold an early break in the second set and eventually fell to Peters Township’s Kat Wang and Marra Bruce 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.
“We both played well overall as a whole,” Nouaime said. “I think it was a good loss. It was a tough loss, but we did our best.”
Although Liang and Nouaime have been playing against each other since they were 7, this was their first time playing doubles together. The chemistry and the fit seemed more like a team that been playing together for a decade.
In one corner was Nouaime, a consistent baseliner with a knack for her service return. In the other corner was power player Liang, who would finish things up at net.
“It’s such a weird, natural connection with them,” Walker said. “Alice just controls the net and Hana just sets her up.”
With at least two more years to go, the only thing up for debate at Methacton may be who will play No. 1 singles in the future. Liang edged out Nouaime by the slimmest of margins after several challenge matches.
“I was so happy we won and got to go states,” Nouaime said. “It was super cool. I hope we can get to states again. And next year hopefully we can play both singles and doubles.”