Excitement On And Off The Court

Harriton girls tennis team finishes second in state tournament, first in fun

(Photo Left) Harriton girls tennis team members and coach David Broida. Photo by Sarah J. Glover.

If you lived through a certain generation and have seen the 1983 movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” you certainly would remember the scene where Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his movie family kidnaps “Walley World” security guard Lasky (John Candy).

After discovering the park is closed, the disappointed family forces him to open the amusement park and take them on the rides.

At first, Candy’s character was scared being held at gunpoint and being forced to ride the roller coasters. But after the ordeal, he tells the besieging police not to arrest the Griswolds because he ended up having the best time in his life on the scary rides.

Well, Harriton freshman tennis sensation Mackenzie Sherman had a somewhat similar experience at Hershey Park Oct. 27 as she and her teammates spent the day at the theme park before competing for a state title the next day.

“My teammates forced me to go on all the rides, according to them, it’s a freshman tradition,” Sherman said. “I was scared to death. I'm not one to go on scary rides, especially ones that flip! I was screaming my lungs out.” But after a few encounters with Storm Runner, SooperDooperLooper, Wildcat, and Great Bear, she was as much a ride lover as Candy’s Lasky. “My teammates were amazing and got me through it,” said Sherman. “This is just an example of how close of a team we are, always helping one another out.”

Connie Richards, Saige Roshkoff, Nina Hoog and Sophia Sassoli were among the girls who not only cajoled Sherman onto the scary rides, but also joined her in leading the Rams to an impressive runner-up finish in the PIAA state finals. The team lost to North Allegheny 4-1 in the title match Oct. 28. The Rams had beaten North Allegheny the year before but fell just short this time.

Harriton’s undefeated season up to the last match, which included Central and District League championships and two wins each over rivals Conestoga and Lower Merion, was almost perfect. “We had some ups and downs in the beginning of the season trying to get our line-ups together, but that did not stop us.”

“Although the outcome was not in our favor, we had a terrific season. Being undefeated until our very last match; being able to represent Harriton; and especially the fans cheering for us, not only in the season, but [also in] the post season in Hershey, was unforgettable. The result from this year will only make us hungrier for the title next year. We have definitely gotten stronger as a team this season, but North Allegheny also added three key freshmen. It was great to be one of the two best teams in the state. These girls have taught me life skills that I will cherish forever, as well as lifelong friendships. Since I'm a freshman, I look up to all the upperclassmen, aspiring to be just like them,” said Sherman.

Sherman takes solace in the fact that she and her partner Nina Hoog won Harriton’s only match in the title loss.

With the whole team returning next year, she feels more great accolades are ahead for Harriton girls’ tennis. “It’s been so exciting to be part of this team,” she said. “I love all the girls on the team. We all shared great memories over the past few months and I believe that is key to being successful; having the encouragement from your teammates. We know when to compete hard and when we can begin our dance parties. Personally, I prefer to play singles — and I will later in my high school career — but my partner [Hoog] taught me a lot about the fundamentals of doubles. She is the greatest doubles partner! We were a great team and had terrific chemistry, [and] also referred to as the ‘dream team!’” 

Sherman also made a name for herself and her athletic prowess this year. For years, along with her parents, she has been a fixture in the stands rooting for her two older sports star brothers, Matthew (Harriton) and Corey (Lower Merion) on their respective basketball squads. Matt is a 1000-point scorer at both Harriton and Haverford College, and Corey was a key cog of a state championship Aces team in 2013. He now plays for Brandeis University. 

“I always want to make my brothers proud, and I will do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. For years, I was always cheering them on. I still cheer for both Harriton and Lower Merion in basketball, and all sports, but if it comes to Lower Merion tennis, we want to win. I am — like my brothers — very competitive and my dedication to tennis and my work ethic gave me a chance to be part of this great experience as a freshman. I also think they are happy I went into tennis and can make a name for myself in a different sport.”

Meanwhile, junior Sophia Sassoli is the team’s top singles player and one of many Division I college prospects from this team. She is still reeling a little from the title loss but is appreciative enough to understand the accomplishments of the squad. “We were very disappointed that we didn’t win the chip this year,” she said. “However being second in the state is still a huge achievement and something we should all be very proud of. We still had an amazing season so although it didn’t end in the final day the way we wanted it to, we shouldn’t forget all the great things that happened along the way.”

Sassoli dominated her competition this year and can’t wait to resume next year as the team’s top player. “Playing No. 1 singles can definitely be fun and I like getting to compete against some other great players. I really enjoy playing with the team, though, and I love the time I get to spend with them even more than the time I’m on the court.”

Sassoli will most likely make a bigger name for herself in the sport outside of Harriton but she said the Ram’s experience is the most special in her young career so far.

“I love playing tennis for the school because of our relationships we have with each other, and we have a lot of fun together, which to me is more important than any of the tennis we play. I personally also love our team cheer that we do before matches. Our team gets really hyped and the energy we bring just makes everyone pumped and excited. We also have some great pre-game match routines that involve singing and dancing, but I can’t elaborate too much because it’s embarrassing!”

Now what about forcing the youthful Sherman on the roller coasters?

“Every year at states, our coach lets us go to Hershey Park for an evening and we basically let loose on all the rides for a couple of hours. It’s so much fun — and we had fun with Mackenzie, too. It’s a great way to take our minds off any impending pressure for the next day. We hit all the big roller coasters and finished off the night with Chick-fil-A milkshakes to get rid of any headaches.”

It was Harriton’s opponents who had the headaches this year after facing this group, with the exception of North Allegheny on the very last day of the season. “Well, we return everyone next year, so we would love to get back to states and win it like we did in 2016,” Sassoli said. “There’s nothing but good times ahead.”


Excitement On And Off The Court
Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.


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