COLONIA, NJ--On a hot and humid 85-degree day, the New Brunswick Zebras persevered on the road against the Colonia Patriots, earning their first win of the season on September 8.
The Zebras were coming off a successful 2015 season, finishing 15-7 as the second best team in Central Jersey Group IV play.
However, last year they competed in the Blue Division. With their newfound success, the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) decided to push them up in the rankings, skipping the next level in the White Division, and sending the Zebras straight to the top in the Red Division.
Coached by 8th-year head coach Michael Mitchell, the Zebras faced off against a familiar opponent in Colonia with first year head coach, Nicole Albelo, from the Blue Division.
Isaura Lopez at 1st Singles and Stephanie Lopez Cruz at 2nd Singles are the leaders on the team, both seniors heading into their fourth year on varsity.
Lopez got things started against promising sophomore Diya Pujara, a player she met twice last season, first winning 6-2, 6-1, and then 6-1, 6-1.
This time around, Pujara showed her year-long improvement and kept up with Lopez. Working hard for the win, Lopez came out on top 6-4, 6-3.
Appreciating the good competition, Lopez commented, "The thing I like about how she played is that she would hit job shots and then if I'd get it, she would hit it past me, and I'm like 'Okay, I like that.'"
For the season, she continued, "I just want to play with passion and in the zone. Not worry about the score."
Stephanie Lopez-Cruz took on junior Melissa Ngai, a player she also met twice last season, first winning 6-3, 6-0, then 6-2, 6-2. In today's match, Lopez Cruz cruised past her opponent 6-1, 6-0.
Recently dying her hair blue, she hopes it will make her feel more daring, preparing her for her senior year.
When asked about her match, Lopez-Cruz said, "The sun was a hassle because I couldn't serve sometimes. My opponent would hit snap shots, and I had to run more, which I'm not used to running because I hit farther. I like to play from the baseline."
For the season, she added, "Overall, I just want to have fun and do my best, even if it means I don't win most of my matches. .at least win five matches with the Red Division teams who are really good.
At 3rd Singles, Gabriella Marroquin was able to hold off Colonia's Brunella Godoy in a tight match-up.
"I don't want to blame it on the heat, or how I was feeling, but it was too hot," said Marroquin on the muggy weather conditions.
After an easy first set win at 6-1, Godoy came back in full stride to force a tiebreaker with the set at 6-6. Pulling away with two points, Marroquin finished it at 10-8.
"I got tired the second set. There were some good shots, but that has to do with the footwork."
This is Marroquin's first win as a singles player, having played 1st doubles her first two seasons.
Later on, Karla Romero-Ramirez and Brittany Lopez Cruz at 1st Doubles brought a hard fought match to Veronica Esteves and Adara Temitzler. Not an easy win, but a challenge, the Zebras won it 7-5, 6-3.
"I think we played better because we worked together more," said Romero-Ramirez on the performance. "We used more communication," added Brittany Lopez-Cruz.
Jessica Quansah and Wendy Barrientos, newcomers to the sport, lost to Archna Manendru and Sweta Patel, 6-0 and 6-2.