MEDFORD >> No. 2 seed Moorestown successfully defended its title with another win over top-seeded Shawnee, 3-2, in the NJSIAA Southwest B Girls Tennis Sectional Championship Oct. 31 here.
The match came down to the third singles contest where Moorestown junior defeated Shawnee sophomore Maya Doshi in three sets, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
Last year, coach Steve Dickerson's Quakers defeated the Renegades, 4-1, in the NJSIAA South Group 3 sectional championship, the program's 34th sectional crown since 1981.
"Moorestown is a very talented team and kept their composure and played with confidence the entire match," said Shawnee second-year coach Sarah Fitzgerald, whose team finished the year 13-2 and was attempting to win its second sectional title (other in 1979) in school history.
"It was a heartbreaking loss, it was our goal the entire season, but it something we need to learn from and come back even stronger next year. Moorestown is the defending Group 3 sectional champion for a reason. They are used to being in high-pressure situations and they were able to handle the spotlight on Saturday. I believe our youth and inexperience in the championship atmosphere is essentially why we lost the match."
The Quakers and Renegades were meeting again 10 days after Shawnee prevailed, 4-1, for its first win over Moorestown in more than a decade and one of three losses for the Quakers (11-3) this season.
Saturday's final was a back-and-forth battle - much like a long volley for a point - on the cool, crisp and sun-splashed morning.
Shawnee sophomore Samantha Tepes (14-1 this season, 40-6 career record) gave her team a 1-0 lead with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Moorestown senior Paige O'Neil at first singles.
Tepes was the lone winner for Shawnee in the 2019 South Jersey Group 3 final when she - then a freshman - beat Emma Regovich, 6-4, 1-6, 10-8, at first singles
Moorestown evened the score, 1-1, as freshman Erica Zhang and junior Maya Butani defeated Shawnee junior Michaela Pierznik and sophomore Kalena Gatesman, 6-3, 6-3, at second doubles. It was the first time Pierznik and Gatesman have lost this season.
Shawnee grabbed the lead back at 2-1 as seniors Mary Kate Clapperton and Ella Purfield outlasted Moorestown juniors Charlotte Morrison and Laura Sullivan in three sets, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Moorestown junior Lia Streibich then defeated Shawnee freshman Natasha Sharnoff, 6-2, 7-5, to tie things up again, 2-2.
That set the stage for the drama between Burkhart and Doshi at third singles.
"I am proud of our team and the season we had," said Fitzgerald, whose coaching background is mainly lacrosse, having played at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and coached at the following high schools: Jenkintown, Pa. (2013), Robbinsville (2014), West Windsor-Plainsboro South (2015) and varsity assistant at Shawnee last five years.
"We beat teams the girls tennis program has lost to for decades. It was an incredible year," but next year we need to beat those teams when it matters most. We have a bright future ahead and we are already looking forward to the 2021 season!"