RANDOLPH _ Lena Parsch of Chatham was in a Morris County Tennis Tournament final as a freshman, vying for top honors at third singles, but that moment seemed so long ago.
Parsch, who now plays second singles, got a second chance as a senior and wasn't going to be satisfied going home as the runner-up.
The last one on the courts at County College of Morris, Parsch battled the heat and coped with the slowdown tactics of Kinnelon's Agatha Malinowski and prevailed, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, to take the second singles title on Sunday, Sept. 24. The victory was doubly sweet because the Cougars garnered their fifth consecutive MCT crown by scoring 20 points, four more than second-place Kinnelon.
"I'm so happy. This is so nice," Parsch said. "I was here as a freshman. Now I'm back again. It's deja vu. I gave it my all. I'm so glad to finally win."
Parsch planned to celebrate by eating ice cream at Magic Fountain in Summit. The treat was well deserved as Parsch survived some rough spots during the three-set match.
The 90-degree temperatures affected Parsch a bit and Malinowski got to her with long pauses, leaving her frustrated.
"I was trying to stay focused but it wasn't easy," she said. "The slow play bothered me and I didn't want to fall into that. I decided I had to stay with my game. I needed to keep my feet moving. If I stopped, I wouldn't be able to focus."
The best parts of Parsch's game are her forceful serves, accurate groundstrokes and approach shots, which were effective for much of the match.
Chatham coach James Cai was elated to stretch the string of championships to five. Saturday's quarterfinals concluded with the Cougars, Mendham, Kinnelon and Mountain Lakes tied for first with 13 points apiece.
"Every year is dfferent," Cai said. "There's different competition. The girls were calm and didn't worry about the four-way tie going into the semis and finals. They played their games."
The Colts' Britany Lau repeated at first singles, dispatching Seden Agar of Mendham, 6-0, 6-1. The winner at third singles was Chatham's Lana DePasquale, who defeated Marguerite Munley of Mendham, 6-0, 6-1. At first doubles, the Cougars notched their third victory as Julia Gallop and Libby White beat Allie Gregorek and Emma Matkiwsky of Mountain Lakes, 6-3, 6-4.
Lau, a junior, had faced Agar in a USTA Tournament last December and knew she'd have to work for every point.
"Seden is very good," Lau said. "It was close."
This time, Lau cruised, winning the first nine games of the title match. Agar took her lone game in the fifth game of the second set. Lau displayed a strong slice and forehand. Her serve initially was off, she said, but she "got past it."
How did it feel to claim a second title?
"Pretty good. I'm not sure how to describe it," Lau said. "It's a good feeling to know I'm one of the best in the county. I was a little stressed then I calmed down. I hope to do more over the rest of the season and carry it into next year."
DePasquale was at first doubles last fall. She toiled to improve in all aspects of her game and moved into a singles position.
"Lana sharpened her game, especially the mental part," Cai said. "Her overall focus is so much better. Lana changed her mentality so much. She's always positive."
At second doubles, Montville's Jane Meng and Gabby Weiner rallied past Amanda Pechock and Tess Welch of Mendham, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. Meng and Weiner ignored the fact that they were unseeded and wound up in the final.
"We had nothing to lose," Meng said. "We've played good matches against some very good doubles teams. We weren't going to let anyone intimidate us, even Chatham, the top seed."
Dropping the first set didn't perturb Meng, a senior, and Weiner, a junior. They were used to it after losing the opening set in their semifinal and settled in. Meng was steady at the baseline and Weiner came through at the net.
"Falling behind motivated us," Weiner said. "We play well together. We just wanted to have fun."
Weiner and her teammate were proud to leave CCM with medals. Weiner wore a plastic medal purchased at Party City for good luck, the same as she has done for much of the season. The one she wore Sunday said "Awesome" and that's exactly what they were.
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