EDISON — Katie Buchbinder of Scotch Plains made history by becoming the first Wardlaw-Hartridge School individual Middlesex County tennis champion.
The top-seeded senior overcame a tough start to defeat East Brunswick’s Jennifer Chen 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 to capture the county first singles championship at Thomas Edison Park on Oct. 10. Buchbinder trailed twice late in the first set but won two service games to force a tie-breaker. After surviving the early scare, Buchbinder rolled in the second set, taking the last five games to win the title.
“I had to stay calm, leave it all out there on the court and do my best,” said Buchbinder, who improved to 15-2 this season. “I just focused and slowed the pace down. I became more consistent and after I won the first set, I just had to continue my momentum.”
After forcing the tie-breaker with some clutch play late in the first set, Buchbinder continued to wear down her opponent in a grueling baseline battle. She won the decisive point of the first set when Chen hit a forehand wide after a long rally.
Buchbinder felt a sense of urgency as a senior athlete competing in her last county tournament. She had reached the semifinals in previous years but wanted more this time.
“I was really working up to this and I knew I could win,” she said. “I’m a senior so this was my last chance. I really wanted it.”
Buchbinder’s heroics propelled the Wardlaw-Hartridge girls to a tie for third place in the team standings. She was proud to represent her school and put her name in the record books.
“It feels amazing to be the first person at my school to win counties in tennis,” Buchbinder said. “I wanted to leave with a sense of accomplishment and this is something I’ll always remember.”