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Mendham threepeats in MCT

Featured Mendham's Lauren Hernandez, pictured, and Veronika Fojtu won the first doubles title at the Morris County Tournament. Photos by Karen Fucito Mendham's Lauren Hernandez, pictured, and Veronika Fojtu won the first doubles title at the Morris County Tournament.
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RANDOLPH _ Veronika Fojtu will never forget how flattered she was when Hayley Keith chose her to be her doubles partner for Mendham.

Fojtu was playing second doubles for the junior varsity in the summer of 2011 when Keith asked her to join her. The duo clicked immediately, winning second doubles at the Morris County Tournament.

Keith graduated, leaving Fojtu to find a new partner and she thought of freshman Lauren Hernandez, known for her aggressive play.

On Sunday, Sept. 30, Fojtu and Keith, seeded second, took the first doubles title, defeating Montville's Jillian Garfunkel and Joanna Fass, 6-1, 6-2.

The victory helped Mendham to its third consecutive MCT crown and its 10th in 12 years. The Minutemen scored 22 points while runner-up Montville had 19 points. Villa Walsh was third with 16 points.

"We were amazing today. Lauren was really amazing," said Fojtu, a senior. "Our teamwork was great. Without her, I couldn't do anything."

Mendham's second doubles team, comprised of seniors Michelle Miller and Abby Grabow, also triumphed, dispatching Villa Walsh's Meghan Lewis and Alexa Kapuscinski, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

Also coming out on top for the Minutemen on Sunday was third singles player Katie Gutknecht, who beat Montville freshman Erin Sanzone, 6-0, 6-4.

The Minutemen's showings in those three flights are a testament to their depth. When Casey Marx, the defending first singles champion, decided not to come out for the team, it was a big blow. Mendham had no choice but to regroup.

"A good part of our lineup stayed the same," Mendham coach Ed Chando said. "We did lose some important players but had other strong ones. I'm pleased with how freshmen filled in."

One of those freshman was Hernandez, a player with a solid serve and consistent baseline play. Fojtu excels at the net. She attacks and, according to Hernandez, "stands her ground." Together, they've been dominant.

"When Lauren came for tryouts, I liked her aggressiveness," Fojtu said. "I like to be technical and strategic and she's the same way. Without my experience, we wouldn't have succeeded. I knew what to do because of being in the MCT before. Hayley helped me a lot. Lauren, like our assistant coach (Karen McCourt) says, brings something new."

After breezing through the opening set in the final, Fojtu and Hernandez faced a 2-0 deficit. Garfunkel and Fass took command by using lobs. Fojtu and Hernandez made several adjustments.

"We had to change something," Hernandez said. "We communicated more. We knew we could do it. We hit harder and to the sidelines. We became more aggressive."

Fojtu and Hernandez then closed out the match by winning the next six games.

Miller has had an exceptional run in the MCT, taking first in second doubles the last three years. Prior to teaming up with Grabow, Miller was with Gabriella Coradini, now at West Morris.

"This is really gratifying," Miller said. "We worked together. You have to do that. We pumped each other up."

Miller's net play stands out and she considers herself "the put-it-away type." Grabow, formerly a JV first doubles player, prides herself on accurate groundstrokes.

"I'm glad to get this in my first year on varsity," Grabow said.

Chando praised Miller for "holding the doubles teams together."

"The second doubles team has pulled out some great matches," Chando said. "They're tough. Michelle has been great for several years. She's a great kid."

How did they plan to celebrate?

"I'm going to sleep," Miller said. "The last two days have been long."

As for Gutknecht, she relied on her forehand and slice to garner her first MCT championship.

"This was unbelievable for me," Gutknecht said. "This was my first final. I'm happy."

Mendham's Tara Buchney also was in the finals. Buchney fell to Montville's Kaitlin Sanzone at second singles, 3-6, 2-6.

Last modified onFriday, 17 October 2014 21:48
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