The Harriton girls' tennis team put the finishing touches on a magical 20-0 season by winning the program's second state title in three years.
Seniors Sophia Sassoli, Nina Hoog, Connie Richards, Roshni Parikh, Lauren Binnion, and Erika Lutz provided strong leadership, which helped the Rams beat Central League rival Conestoga three times in less than one month.
"I was so proud of each and every girl," said first-year Harriton coach Kathi Rees. "They have worked so hard to get back to the state final and to see the emotion and joy on their faces was truly heartwarming. The seniors on this team showed such leadership and camaraderie this year. I was so excited that they could capture a state championship to end their tennis career at Harriton."
Harriton's first meeting with Conestoga took place on Oct. 1, with the Rams winning, 4-3. In the District 1 Class 3A tournament, Harriton defeated Academy Park, Wissahickon, and West Chester Henderson before sweeping Conestoga in the finals.
At first singles, Sassoli defeated talented senior Cassidy Landau, 6-0, 6-0. Sophomore Saige Roshkoff won by a 6-2, 6-1 margin at second singles against Priya Aravindhan, and Hoog prevailed against freshman Ananya Krishman, 6-3, 6-1, at third singles. It was the Rams' third consecutive district title.
Harriton, which also won the state title in 2016, started the PIAA Class 3A tournament with convincing 5-0 wins over Carlisle and Shady Side Academy. In the semifinals, the Rams cruised past Unionville, 3-0, to set up another matchup with Conestoga on Oct. 27.
Sassoli, playing in her final team high school match, set the tone with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Landau at No. 1 singles. Roshkoff followed with a 6-0, 6-1 triumph at second singles over Aravindhan. Binnion and Parikh secured the state championship with a 6-2, 6-1 victory at second doubles over Kate Wieser and Sophia Mazza. The Rams absolutely dominated the 2018 state tournament, winning 16 matches without dropping a set along the way.
"Honestly, it's the best thing I could have asked for, and the way everything played out was even better than I could have imagined," Sassoli said. "We've been dreaming about taking back the state title since our loss in the finals last year, and to be able to do that, as a senior, with the girls who feel like family, is amazing. We truly ended it on the highest note possible, and for that I'm thankful. I think we'll all remember it forever."
Sassoli, Roshkoff, and Hoog went undefeated the entire season in singles action. The No. 2 doubles team of Parikh and Binnion put together a perfect season, while the duo of Richards and sophomore Mackenzie Sherman suffered just one loss. Junior Shaina Ginsberg and freshmen Josephine Kwok and Allison Liao were also key members of the team.
Sassoli and Roshkoff also teamed up in doubles to win the Central League, District 1, and state championships. The duo dropped only six games in the state tournament en route to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Methacton's Dina Nouaime and Tina Prince in the final. No other Harriton doubles tandem had won the state title since 1979.
"I'm proud to have been able to represent Harriton for four years, and I couldn't ask for a better way to finish my high school career," said Sassoli, who will be playing at Georgia Tech next year.
A strong friendship between Sassoli and Roshkoff led to much of their success on the court.
"Saige and I have known each other for a long time and we're really good friends; we practice with each other and compete in USTA tournaments together as well," Sassoli said. "We really enjoy playing together, and we are both very excited to have the opportunity to compete together while representing Harriton. It's nice to get recognition from our school, and winning districts helped us do that. We're both very excited for states, and I'd say our goal is to do our very best to win it all, go-big-or-go-home style."
Harriton is the first District 1 girls' tennis team to win more than one 3A state title. The Rams, who won the 2A state crown every year from 2004-10, have nine championship trophies to lead Pennsylvania in the number of girls' tennis titles.