Taffner’s second-place finish highlights Steinert tennis team’s strong MCT effort

Steinert junior Lucy Ann Taffner had reason to smile after reaching the MCT finals at second singles today at Mercer County Park (Photo by Rich Fisher)

By Rich Fisher

Sep. 27: While the Hightstown and Princeton Day School girls’ tennis teams drew most of the attention at today’s Mercer County Tournament, it is worth noting that Steinert popped its head out of a hole at Mercer County Park for the first time in a while.

The Spartans had one runner-up, as junior Lucy Ann Taffner reached the second singles final before falling to Hightstown’s top-seeded Anusha Rangu. The Spartans’ Erin Swierczyna played a consolation match before being forced to withdraw due to severe cramping.

“We ended up with 12 points as a team, double the amount of points since I’ve been here,” fourth-year coach Jamie Riese said. “You can’t ask for anything more. Everyone won some matches. It was a good couple of days for us to be out here as a team.”

Taffner highlighted the Spartans’ performance by battling her way through some tough matches to reach the finals. She started with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Peddie’s Beatrice Casey and then defeated Robbinsville’s Lily Mur by injury default in the second set, which she was trailing 3-4 after winning the first set 6-3. The semifinal was a two-set war, with Taffner beating West Windsor-Plainsboro North’s Melinda Mao, 6-4, 7-5.

“I am proud of myself,” said Taffner, who has been playing for 13 years. “Last year I lost in the second round. And the year before that I was injured and I wasn’t even here. I never thought I would make it this far. My goal was to just go to the semifinals and I got past that.”

Lucy ran into a buzz saw in the finals as Hightstown’s Anusha Rangu won 6-0, 6-0. Rangu was a returning champion, having won third singles last year for the two-time champion Rams.

“She’s my only loss this year,” Taffner said. “She beat me earlier this year too.”

Riese was hardly upset with what happened in the finals.

“Sometimes you run into a tough opponent,” he said. “I have to give it up to the girl from Hightstown. The girl was tough. She’s a very good player and with the exception of two or three shots, everything was on for her. She was running Lucy all over the place. I don’t think Lucy played her best tennis, but that girl was in control from the beginning and she proved why she’s the champion. It’s awesome that Lucy got to the finals.”

The fact that Taffner has one more year is encouraging to Riese, who feels that she will keep improving if only because she strives to improve.

“She works very hard and the most important thing is, she’s very coachable,” Riese said. “We talk to her all the time and we tell her things, she goes out there and tries it. She listens and she’s willing to do whatever we ask. You can’t say any more than that about a person.”

Swierczyna provided Steinert a second player returning for the second day of action and the sophomore gave a pretty good account of herself.

“She lost a tough one early on today,” Riese said. “She had some opportunities to win. She was upset because she knew she had an opportunity to win. If she hadn’t cramped up in the consolation she would have won easily.

“I think the thing that helps Lucy versus Erin in these type of situations is Lucy’s played more tournament tennis. It wasn’t a physical thing with Erin, it was the pressure that got to her from not being in these situations. I thought she was the better player (physically) but sometimes these things happen.”

About The Author

Rich Fisher has been around the Hamilton Township sports scene for so long that he actually got Rich Giallella’s autograph when Giallella was still a player! Proud product of Hamilton YMCA and Lou Gehrig baseball leagues and former teammate of Jim Maher on a very average Barton & Cooney rec basketball team, Fish graduated from Nottingham Junior High and Steinert High school and has covered township sports since 1980. His goal in life is to convince Maria Prato that Jersey tomatoes are at least 100 times better than California tomatoes.