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EHT senior Emily Manzo wins CAL tennis championship

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After three Cape-Atlantic League girls tennis tournament final appearances, Egg Harbor Township High School senior Emily Manzo finally knows what it feels like to win on the last day.

Manzo won the CAL Individual Tournament championship Thursday, beating Cedar Creek sophomore Charisse Tigardo 6-1, 6-1.

Ocean City’s Brynn Bowman and Rosalie Graham won the doubles title 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, against EHT’s Gabrielle Guimapang and Angelina Lee.

Prior to her victory, Manzo had been to the finals of the CAL tournament three times, losing to Vineland graduate Tess Fisher in all three matches. Fisher, now playing for Rutgers University, was one of only two CAL players Manzo has ever dropped a match to — the other being Absegami graduate Cassidy Calimer.

“Coming into the season I knew that Tess wasn’t playing,” Manzo said. “I had an opportunity to get some more wins and I was really excited because it’s my senior year. The other years leading up to this gave me a lot of experience, so I was really ready to take (the title) home this year.

“I was really confident coming into the tournament, but I had to work hard against all of these players. They’re all very good.”

Manzo, a 2017 first-team Press All-Star, improved her high school career record to 104-23, including 30-4 this season. During the first round of the CAL tournament, Manzo achieved her 100th career win with a 6-0, 6-0, victory against Millville’s Phoebe Baldasarre, breaking the EHT school record set by Karisse Bendijo in 2009.

“It’s really exciting to win. My freshman, sophomore and junior (seasons) led up to this, so it was really nice to win it in my senior year. It was also one of my goals coming in as a freshman to set that record for the most wins.

EHT coach Alene Harman called Manzo’s win “a long-time dream for us.”

“I’m so proud. She knew she was the favorite coming into this tournament, but that also makes her a target for these other girls,” Hartman said. “If there was anyone who could beat Emily this year, it would have made their season, so she still had to work extra hard.”

Bowman and Graham have played as partners for the last three years for the Red Raiders. Graham, a senior, and Bowman, a junior, had made it the semifinals of the doubles tournament last year.

“It was insane,” Bowman said of the win. “We’ve been playing together for so long, so to end on a bang like that with her being a senior and our last match together to win the CAL — it’s insane.”

Graham said the two have worked incredibly hard together for the last three years.

“It was really cool to win,” Graham said. “As soon as we found out we were partners, we knew we wanted to win the CAL. We played well in the semifinals last year and coming back again we really wanted the title,” Bowman said.

Ocean City finished the year as the No. 6 team in The Press Elite 11, while EHT was the No. 7 team.

“It was exciting. They had us on the edge of our seats,” said Ocean City coach Samantha Newgas of her winning tandem. “It was the best tennis these two teams had played against each other this year. It was a great battle and the girls held their own.”

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