Dover defeats CR in girls tennis for the first time in 12 years, ends Riders’ 117-match win streak

Kevin Papen

DOVER — His Dover High girls’ tennis team was only a couple points away from winning when the possibility really started to sink in for coach Kevin Papen.

“I said to one of the girls, ‘We might actually win this,’” Papen recalled. “She was like, ‘You just realized that?’ I was like, ‘No, it could actually happen now.’”

And then, a few moments later, it was over and the Senators really had toppled two-time defending state champion Caesar Rodney, 3-2, in a season-opening match last Friday.

It was the first time the Riders lost a match since falling to Archmere, 3-2, on May 12, 2009 — snapping a CR winning streak of 117 straight matches. More than that, the victory marked the first time Dover had beaten the Riders since 2006.

So the Senators were understandably pretty excited about it.

“It was kind of like everyone was in shock — but in a good way,” said Papen. “They were like, ‘Wow, we actually did it.’

“We were really happy. Everyone had looked up the last time that we had beaten CR.”

The victory was sealed by sophomore Victoria Anyanwu’s 6-3, 6-3 win over CR’s Natasha Sijan at first singles in the day’s final match.

Dover’s other victories came from Erika Snyoski at second singles and the second-doubles team of Hayley Schier and Jing Rue Lin.

The match was the first for Papen as the Senators’ head coach. The 27-year-old was a three-time state champion for the Riders in high school, graduating in 2008.

Papen, though, said it didn’t feel strange pulling for Dover.

“The girls are the nicest group of girls,” he said. “They all work really hard and they’re really good tennis players. It’s not hard to get behind them.

“I was pretty nervous. It’s funny, because I’m used to being the assistant coach somewhere. It was different. But it was a fun first match — especially because it was such good tennis on every court.”

Under the Henlopen Conference new scheduling format, each team faces the other teams in the division only once in an official league match this season. Friday’s match was a nonconference one.

The Senators and Riders will square off again on April 30 at CR in the match that counts toward the Henlopen standings.

“They were like, ‘We did it, now we have to keep this up,’” Papen said about his players. “I think it was a great first match because now everyone’s excited for the rest of the season.”

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