CR girls aim to win second straight state tennis title

CAMDEN — In three seasons of high school tennis, Natasha Sijan has known nothing but success.

The Caesar Rodney High junior has won the state title at girls’ third singles in each of her first two seasons.

But that doesn’t mean Sijan doesn’t get frustrated — just like any other player.

“I get very anxious,” she said. “And then, when you start messing up, you get angry. Then that gets in your head and it messes up everything.

“You just have to stay calm.”

The Riders did a pretty good job of staying calm and focused last season when they captured the program’s first DIAA team state title since 2011.

Now, with the tournament getting underway on Saturday morning, CR wants to see if it can make it two in a row. The Riders have never won back-to-back state crowns.

While Natasha Sijan is 12-0 this season, the Caesar Rodney junior knows the competition will be more difficult after making the move up to second singles. “This year I know I’m going to have to work harder,” she said. (Delaware State News file photo)

CR is seeded no lower than third in any of the five brackets with its doubles teams of Katherine Tamesis-Macaela Thorogood (15-0) and Piper Casey-Chloe Mangubat (8-0) seeded No. 1 at first and second, respectively.

“We’re all pretty determined,” said Sijan, who is seeded No. 2 at second singles. “We all want it just as much. We just want to show everybody that we can do it again.”

“I think the girls are pretty confident based on how they played during the season,” said coach Zach Taylor. “And then, obviously, winning last year was a good feeling. It gives you that confidence that you’ve done it before so you can do it again.”

The Riders have lost only two players from last year’s top seven.

Senior Halle Parker has been one of CR’s top players for the past four years.

A year ago, she won the state title at second singles. She played first singles her first two seasons, falling in the state semifinals both times.

This season, Parker is seeded No. 3 at first singles. She is only 9-0 after missing some matches while she made college visits.

“This year I think it’s been kind of stressful for her because she’s been trying to settle the whole college thing,” said Taylor. “Hopefully, now that that’s all settled, she’ll have some confidence moving forward. She’ll be like, ‘All right, now I just settle on tennis.’ ”
While Sijan is 12-0 this season, she knows the competition will be more difficult after making the move up to second singles.

“This year I know I’m going to have to work harder,” she said.

That being said, this is also the time of year that Sijan and the Riders look forward to all season.

“The competition gets really more intense, it’s more fun,” she said. “This is what I prepare for throughout the season.”

“I think the biggest thing that helped last year was just how we handled the pressure situations,” said Taylor. “I think the girls have matured a lot in that area. They know how to handle it when the match is close and you’ve got to make a couple big plays or when you get to the state finals and everybody is watching you.

“Handling all those intangible things was important for us.”

Notes

Dover’s Sophie Malenfant is seeded No. 2 at third singles. … Like CR, Archmere also has the No. 1 seed in two of the brackets. Wilmington Charter has the other top seed. … The Auks and Force tied for second behind the Riders last year. … Caroline Pangle would have given CR six returning players but the senior was sidelined by an ankle injury.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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