RANDOLPH _ Chatham girls tennis coach James Cai was supposed to be sleeping.
Instead, Cai spent much of Saturday night wide awake trying to take a peek at the near future. Cai was worried about what would happen on the second day of the Morris County Tournament.
Would the Cougars, whose first doubles team was ousted in the quarterfinals, be able to make it a threepeat? Would Mendham, up by one point, reign?
"I didn't sleep very well," Cai said. "I was trying to figure things out. I was thinking of combinations and what might happen. I didn't need to do that. In the end, I believed in the girls and thought they'd win all of the matches."
Cai was mostly right. He trusted in his players and they kept their title streak alive, capturing a third consecutive MCT crown by scoring 22 points, three more than the runner-up Minutemen.
Chatham pulled off a sweep in the singles flights as Scarlett Blydenburgh, Seden Agar and Laurel Hickey took individual honors. Abby Morgan and Jen McCann triumphed at second doubles in a hard-fought match which featured a tie-break second set. Blydenburgh prevailed over Kinnelon freshman Brittany Lau, 6-4, 7-6 (6-4), in a tense match to garner her third straight first singles championship.
"There's a lot of pressure off me right now," said Blydenburgh, whose match, fittingly, was the decisive one. "I came into the match especially nervous. I got in a groove once I started playing. I knew I couldn’t give her any easy points. I had to fight for every shot. (Lau) is a five star so I was nervous but I was given the No. 1 seed for a reason. I had to fight for that."
Blydenburgh, wearing neon yellow Nike sneakers just like her idol, Genie Bouchard, relied on her backhand down the line and her angled shots to take control. She moved Lau around, she said, "in order to get an opening to be aggressive."
The strategy worked to perfection as Blydenburgh build a 4-1 lead in the second set. The end of the match seemed near. Lau, however, rebounded for 4-4. In the 10th game, Blydenburgh committed a pair of double faults for 5-5. In the tie-breaker, Blydenburgh went up, 4-1. Soon, though, it was 4-4. A well-placed backhand by Blydenburgh and an error by Lau ended the match and allowed Blydenburgh to exhale.
"The double faults in the second set were nervewracking," Blydenburgh said. "So was having her come back from 4-1. I couldn't give up. The match wasn't over yet. The crowd was cheering and it got in my head. I was too passive and looking too far ahead when I should have taken the initiative."
Agar, a freshman, upended Morristown's Meghan Acampora, 6-2, 6-4, at second singles with what she termed "perfect attack shots." She ran Acampora quite a bit and was consistent.
"I'm so overwhelmed," Agar said. "It feels so good to win something."
Agar, who moved to Chatham five months ago from Australia, enjoyed being part of a team. She said that there are no high school team sports in Australia, even Melbourne, where she and her family lived. She practice tennis at 6:30 a.m. before going to school at 9 a.m. When classes ended at 4:30 p.m., she'd practice again for several more hours.
"I had to adjust to the school hours and practices here," she said. "It's been a good experience. Everyone in Chatham is so nice and welcoming."
Hickey, who teamed with Emily Sroczynski to take the MCT second doubles title in 2014, defeated Mendham's Lindsey Hernandez, 6-4, 6-2, in the third singles final.
"I tried to be consistent," Hickey said. "I wanted to keep the ball deep and not let her control the points."
She noted that Hernandez "hit the ball heavy" so she had to use more topspin and pace.
Mendham's Charlie Trinco and Alexandra Smith had the upper hand versus Montville's Paige Godau and Emma Bernstein of Montville at first doubles, recording a 7-5, 6-2 victory.
"This is surreal for me," said Smith. "I'm so happy. I thought we were a little shaky at first then we clicked."
Trinco, a standout at the net, and Smith, a strong server and owner of an exceptional backhand, took the tight first set by breaking the Montville tandem in the 10th and 12th games. Trinco held serve for 6-5.
Morgan and McCann, friends since kindergarten and first grade at St. Patrick's, beat Olivia McCarthy and Caitlin Fischer of Mendham, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), at second doubles.
"We were the No. 2 seed and Mendham was No. 1 so we had motivation," Morgan said. "It all worked out. We've practiced hard since August and winning the MCT was our goal. Mr. Cai pushed us."
The Cougars duo did well with their lobs, sending them down the center as Cai advised them to do. McCann said the second set and the ensuing tiebreaker had her on edge.
"We just really, really wanted to win. I especially wanted to win because I'm a senior," McCann said.
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***
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