RANDOLPH _ Scarlett Blydenburgh's 15th birthday is Thursday, Oct. 2 so she gave herself several early presents.
Chatham's Blydenburgh, a sophomore, claimed her second consecutive Morris County Tournament singles title. By accomplishing that feat, Blydenburgh helped the Cougars land their second straight team championship.
"It's all great," said Blydenburgh after prevailing against Mendham's Lauren Hassell, 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, in a two-and-a-half-hour match on Monday, Sept. 29 at County College of Morris. "I was feeling confident. I'm happy. Of course, Mendham was looking to beat us so there was some pressure.
"I played my game. Everyone had fun. We supported each other. It feels really, really good."
Chatham captured both doubles crowns as well. Emily Sroczynski and Laurel Hickey defeated Montville's Jillian Garfunkel and Paige Godau, 6-2, 6-1, at first doubles. At second doubles, Chelsea Gilligan and Olivia O'Brien of Chatham dispatched Mendham's Carina Nicolaisen and Ariana Sanjar, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 6-3.
Mountain Lakes senior Emily Eckert repeated at second singles, registering a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Lauren Hernandez of Mendham. The Minutemen's Lindsey Hernandez topped Chatham freshman Lena Parsch, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
Blydenburgh has tried to avoid lengthy matches by being more aggressive and being quicker in finishing points. She spent time in the offseason and summer practicing with the top boys players at Center Court, including Yannick Parsch, Lena's senior brother.
Although successful in being more efficient and making her matches shorter this season, Hassell, a familiar foe, would not go down easily. The two also met in last season's first singles final. In a match earlier this season, Hassell fought hard but fell to Blydenburgh, 6-0, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5).
Early on, Blydenburgh did not feel like herself. She managed, though, to hold the lead after each game.
"I gave her the game at 6-6 by not paying attention," Blydenburgh said. "Lauren was hitting heavy balls and I had to play defensively. I told myself to be aggressive then I was too aggressive and gave her a few points."
In the tiebreaker, Blydenburgh finally felt loose. She trailed, 4-3, then took the last three games to close out the match.
"I didn't want any more three setters," she said. "I moved her and I hit everything. I hit hard. My angles were good and I ran her around the court. I stayed confident."
Eckert, on the other hand, had never met Hernandez in a match. The two knew one another from clinics yet had not shared a court.
"I wanted to let go more but I couldn't," Eckert said. "It was a match of nerves. I tried to be aggressive and do all I could to win."
Tied 4-4 in the first set, the ninth game went to deuce five times. Eckert hung in there and broke Hernandez, who committed several upforced errors over the remainder of the opening set.
In the first game of the second set, Eckert, forced to serve underhand in last year's MCT matches due to a shoulder injury, motivated herself with an angled crosscourt winner to hold serve and establish a 1-0 lead.
"That shot really pumped me up," she said. "That made everything feel more real."
Sroczynski and Hickey breezed at first doubles. Garfunkel and Joanna Fass took the first doubles championship a year ago while Godau, paired with Alice Li, topped the field at second doubles.
For Sroczynski, a senior, winning was a progression. Each year, she was in the final but never went home with any hardware. She took part in second doubles as a freshman, was first singles as a sophomore and first doubles last year.
"We came in hyperfocused," Sroczynski said. "We really wanted to win. We knew what we needed to do and we killed it. We kept our focus and didn't let nerves get the best of us."
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