For Haddonfield's Ng, a season strictly for the team

Taylor Ng, Haddonfield's No. 1 singles player in tennis. (Phil Anastasia / Staff)
Taylor Ng, Haddonfield's No. 1 singles player in tennis. (Phil Anastasia / Staff)
Posted: October 28, 2012

Taylor Ng's senior season ended the way her junior season did: with the Haddonfield tennis star lifting a best-in-state championship trophy above her head.

The twist was that Ng had plenty of help in hoisting this year's hardware.

"I love being part of a team," Ng said Wednesday after leading Haddonfield to a 3-2 victory over Group 4 state champion Millburn in the Tournament of Champions final at the Garden State Tennis Center in Edison. "It's so special when everybody is involved."

Ng is something of an iconoclast, at least when it comes to conventional wisdom for top-shelf high school tennis.

She was a surprise winner of the state singles title as a junior, mainly because she eschewed the traditional path to the top step of the podium - year-round immersion in the sport, with a heavy emphasis on USTA-sanctioned tournament play outside of high school competition.

But then she switched gears again as a senior, joining the USTA tournament circuit for the first time since her eighth-grade year. As a result, Ng decided to forego individual tournaments in high school - declining to defend her South Jersey Interscholastic Championship and state singles titles.

"I gave it a lot of thought," said Ng, who plans to play tennis and major in math at Dartmouth. "I wanted to try to see if I could get my tennis to the next level, especially with college coming up. I wanted to be challenged more, although I am challenged in high school tennis."

Lots of top tennis players opt out of the high school scene to focus on USTA competition. It's sort of a status thing.

Ng decided to go that route as well, but in her own way.

She didn't play in any individual high school tournaments. But she still was part of Haddonfield's team, competing as the Bulldogs' No. 1 singles player in key Colonial Conference, nonleague, and state tournament matches.

Haddonfield coach Jeff Holman said Ng is "without question" the best player in Haddonfield history. That's high praise given the program's rich tradition.

What has set Ng apart - aside from her remarkable athleticism, deep array of shots, and uncanny court sense - has been her approach to the sport.

Holman was convinced that Ng won the singles title last season in large part because she was less obsessed with tennis than many of her competitors. Her other interests - from music to community service to top-of-the-class schoolwork - enabled her to keep perspective even as the pressure rose through the latter stages of the tournament.

This season, Ng went her own way again. She was 22-0, but every victory came in a team match.

She led Haddonfield to a 32-0 record, and the program's second Tournament of Champions title in her four seasons. She was the Bulldogs' No. 1 singles player for all four years, compiling a 132-11 individual record as her team went 123-2.

Ng lost a total of 21 games in 22 matches. She never lost a set. Her closest match was a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Princeton Day School's Samantha Asch, the Mercer County champion and a Wake Forest recruit.

Ng was at her best when it mattered most. She beat Pingry's Madison Stevens, the No. 3 seed in the state singles tournament, by 6-3, 6-1 in the T of C semifinals. She beat Millburn's Jane Bary, the No. 4 seed in the singles tournament, by 6-0, 6-0 in the T of C finals.

Ng won 12 matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores and certainly would have won the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships again. She would have been one of the favorites to win another singles title.

But Ng said she wasn't concerned with more individual success at the high school level. She wanted to finish her career on her terms - with another victory at the end of another tournament run, but with a lot of help from her friends.

"This is how I wanted this to end, sharing this with my teammates," Ng said. "It's the perfect ending."


Contact Phil Anastasia at panastasia@phillynews.com or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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