With new lineup, Dover girls still rolling

Dover’s Erika Synoski defeated Caesar Rodney’s Nora Frederick 6-2, 6-0 in first singles. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

DOVER — One of the toughest matches Erika Synoski would play all spring came before the season even started.

If she wanted to play first singles for the Dover High girls’ tennis team, the sophomore was going to have to beat out teammate Victoria Anyanwu in a preseason challenge match.

And all Anyanwu did last year was win the state title at first singles.

But Synoski took the top spot in a tightly-tested match with Anyanwu. Of course, that also meant that Snyoski had some pretty high standards to live up to.

“I felt a lot of pressure,” Snyoski admitted, “I’ve got to be confident but not overconfident. I just put in the work and try my best.”
So far, so good.

Coming off arguably the program’s best season, the Senators have picked right up where they left off.

The state runnerup by just one point to rival Caesar Rodney a year ago, Dover improved to 11-0 with a 5-0 victory over the Riders on Tuesday. The Senators are 24-1 in dual matches over the last two seasons with their only loss coming to CR exactly a year ago.

The Senators’ Victoria Anyanwu won her second singles match 6-4, 6-3.

Coach Kevin Papen agrees that it’s a little unusual to have a defending first-singles state champion beat out by a teammate. But he says that just shows how good Anyanwu and Synoski both are.

Synoski was the state champ at second singles last season.

“It seems more interesting on paper because of all of that,” said Papen. “Last year, in their challenge match, it was like 9-7. And the challenge this year, both of them were very close. Last year they were probably the two best players, they just happened to be on the same team.

“I’m a creature of habit so I don’t really like change. But there wasn’t anything, it was good.”

Dover has lost only three team points all season. Anyanwu is unbeaten while Synoski’s only loss came against Wilmington Friends’ eighth-grader Aubrey Nisbet, a nationally-ranked juniors player.

Anyanwu, a junior, said she’s taken playing second singles this year in stride.

“I knew it could go either way, because she’s a really good player,” Anyanwu said about Synoski. “The players (at second singles) are still just as tough. I still have to play my best.

“I’m just really happy with our team and how we’re set up. I’m just happy with how everyone’s been doing this year.”

CR’s Katherine Tamesis fell to Dover’s Victoria Anyanwu in second singles.

The Senators lost three seniors from last year’s squad but have had some freshmen step right in.

Anyanwu’s younger sister, Olivia, plays third singles while Shing-Rue Lin teams up with senior Erin Biddle. Junior Anna Canalichio and sophomore Corina Kwok play second doubles.

Biddle is the only senior on the roster.

Coming so close to the program’s first state championship last year has left this a pretty motivated group. Dover did win the Henlopen Conference tournament title after losing the league’s regular-season crown to the Riders.

Tuesday’s victory over CR puts the Senators in control of this year’s regular-season title race.

“It was really hard,” Anyanwu said about losing the state championship by a point. “It was really close. I was just hoping that we’d get it because last year we had a really, really good team. To fall short by one, it did hurt a little bit. But we’re back this year.”

rika Synoski’s only loss came against Wilmington Friends’ eighth-grader Aubrey Nisbet, a nationally-ranked juniors player.

“It was definitely a good motivator,” said Synoski.

CR coach Zach Taylor said having Dover playing at a high level helps push both programs to be better. Both squads came away from last season with accomplishments to be proud of.

“If you are an athlete, you should want to be challenged and want good competition,” said Taylor. “So I don’t shy away from it. I think it’s good that they’re doing really well and that they have a good team. That’s only going to make us better.

“We’ve got a lot of young girls that are just starting out with tennis. Hopefully this will give them some motivation to keep working at it and hopefully be back at this level again.”

For the Senators, some of their best competition comes in practice. Having Anyanwu and Synoski play against each other all the time only makes them — and the team — better.

“They hate losing,” said Papen. “They hate losing to each other. They hate losing to anyone. Their practice sets are very intense. It’s good.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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