The Montclair Kimberley women’s tennis team was unfortunate enough to face the best team in their part of the state tournament.
The Cougars lost to Pingree 4-1 in the Non-Public North title game. But Montclair Kimberley’s only victory in the competition, Lauren Chung and Ellie Lopiccolo’s second tandem team, was only the second match Pingree had lost all year in 14 competitions. Pingree won the state open championship.
Although their 2022 resume did not include a state title, the Cougars won back-to-back Essex County tournament championships and drew with Millburn and Newark Academy for the Super Essex Conference American Division title. They finished 17-2.
And the entire starting team will be back next year.
“I’m very pleased with how our season went,” Montclair head coach Kimberley Billy Wing said. “It was also a pleasure to reach the North Non-Public finals. We fought Pingry, the number one team in the state, but they were better than us that day.”
Before the Pingree match, the Cougars were outnumbered, without their second singles player, junior Milagros Carbajal Diaz, who was ill.
“It would be nice to play Pingree at full strength,” Wing said. “We fought hard, but the match could have been different if we had a full squad.”
This season, the Cougars were number one of their biggest rivals, Newark Academy, winning all three competitions between the two schools, including defeating the Minutemen in the Essex County Tournament Final and the State Tournament.
“Beating the Newark Academy three times in a year is also nice given our intense rivalry and how competitive our matches have been over the past few years,” Wing said.
The coach called a 3½-1½ victory over Newark Academy on September 27 the most important road win as the Cougars came from behind and captured at least part of the American SEC title.
“I would say that winning the conference game at Newark Academy this year, when we had to come back after four first sets, was a huge win,” Wing said. “Some of the kids were really out of their minds and it was really hard to play with them two days after the district final. It was a huge victory for us.”
The girls also received personal awards. Both freshman Aria Nina Abalos and Diaz earned the first All Super Essex Conference American Division honors as first and second singles players. The younger Amara Bhatia, who was a mainstay in the third singles, received an All SEC American second team endorsement along with doubles players Cathy Chung and Hannah Lewis, both juniors. In addition, doubles players Lauren Chung, a freshman and Katie’s sister, and Lopiccolo, a junior, made the All American honorable mention list.
Abalos burst onto the scene and showed in the season 22-2. “Nina had a great season as a freshman and I was honored to be named to the All SEC First Team,” Wing said. “Many great players have made it to the first team as freshmen and she is a special player to add to this list.”
Diaz lost only two matches, losing 16-2 in the second singles. “Milagros also deserve to be there in the first team with another stellar season in the second singles,” the coach said. “We’re very lucky to have such a strong one-two at the top of our line.”
In addition to being named to the All SEC American Second Team, Bhatia earned All New Jersey Third Team honors after going 18-2-1.
“Amara had another great season in the third singles and being named All-State in the third team in the third singles says a lot about her,” Wing said. “She is truly one of the best third singles players in the state and we are lucky to have such a strong singles squad.
“Amara is not your typical patient third player in singles. She can play aggressively all over the court and that gives her a huge advantage. Amara loves to compete and has so many ways to beat her opponents. She’s interesting to watch.”
Doubles team Cathy Chung and Lewis went 17-4 in the first doubles, while second doubles Lauren Chung and Lopiccolo went 14-5.