LINWOOD — Khushi Thakkar and Charlotte Walcoff were concerned and had some doubts about the opportunity to compete this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both were unsure what to expect.
When the shortened season was confirmed, both juniors were thrilled. And that enthusiasm showed Wednesday.
Thakkar and Walcoff led the Mainland Regional High School girls tennis team to a 5-0 victory over Wildwood Catholic Academy in a Cape-Atlantic League match.
Mainland won each match (first, second and third singles and first and second doubles) 6-0, 6-0.
“It feels amazing (to be playing),” said Walcoff, who won second singles over Joanna McShaffry. “I was not really sure about being able to play because other schools had coronavirus outbreaks. Luckily, we get to play some matches.”
Walcoff was the first to beat her opponent.
“It feels great to get the win,” said Walcoff, 16, of Linwood. “This was our first real match of the season, and we are looking great so far this season.”
Thakkar won first singles over Amanda Bogle.
The 16-year-old from Linwood pointed to tennis already being a socially distant sport, so she was really glad the New Jersey State Athletic Association permitted them to have a season.
“I’m really excited for our season,” said Thakkar, who was a second-team Press All-Star last season. “It was a great first match. It was a great start to the season, and I hope this continues for the rest of our matches.”
Mainland coach Kathy Yohe, Wildwood Catholic coach Joseph Halasz, players on the bench and parents and fans that attended wore masks the entire match.
Players on the court put on masks immediately after they were done competing and did not shake hands after their matches were over.
“I’m really glad we had the season,” Thakkar said. “Everyone is wearing their masks and taking their precautions and social distancing, so it’s good. It feels safe when we play.”
Last season, Mainland finished 17-2 and advanced to the South Jersey Group III semifinals. The team made the semifinals for at least the seventh consecutive fall. The Mustangs competed in the sectional finals in 2018 and won the title in 2016.
Mainland made the quarterfinals in 2012.
That can’t happen this season as the NJSIAA will not have any state tournaments. New Jersey tennis teams, however, will still be able to compete for regional titles.
“Obviously, those state tournaments, the competitive feel is amazing,” Thakkar said. “But, even here, just playing now, we get those vibes and it feels great to play with my team.”
Yohe echoed her players.
“It’s great to just have the girls out here,” Yohe said. “Like (Thakkar and Walcoff) said, we weren’t sure this would happen, so everything is a plus at this point.
“I’m really happy with how they played. They’ve been working really hard. … It couldn’t have gone any better, so I’m happy.”
Wildwood Catholic (0-2) had three freshmen competing — McShaffry, Jamie Bogle (third singles) and Tanazia Rodriguez (second doubles).
Rodriguez and partner Gianna Balesteriere lost to Lexi Jacob and Riley Murray. Jamie Bogle lost to Hannah Carson. In first doubles, Gianna Jancsura and Emma Nolan lost to Anna Guebtner and Elizabeth Ong.
“The girls, by the end of the season, will develop and be better,” Halasz said.
“I’m proud of them and very happy with them. It was a good learning experience. I’m very hopeful (going forward) because we will play teams less experienced than (Mainland) and we will get better.”
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