The Princeton Day School Boys Varsity Tennis team came into this spring athletics season with high expectations due to a deep and talented roster, but also faced elements of uncertainty and adversity. Strong team bonds and resiliency helped the team persevere through challenges before ultimately finishing in style and bringing home some gold from the Prep B tournament.
A New Leader at the Helm
New Head Coach Michael Augsberger began his tenure by quickly developing a rapport with the team and learning about their strengths, growth opportunities and personalities. Coach Augsberger, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, brings a wealth of experience and coaching success at the high school and collegiate levels. He was previously a head coach at Salesianum School in Delaware, where he led the team to success in state tournaments and helped coach one player to the only first-singles state championship in program history during his three-year stint. He also served as the Men's Tennis Head Coach for Immaculata University during the 2018-2019 season. In addition to coaching, Augsberger currently works as a communications and marketing writer for a tennis organization based out of Washington, D.C.
"I love the scholastic model for athletics. My coaching style is suited towards organizing team practices. When the opportunity presented itself to coach in high school again and at a tremendous school like PDS, it was a no-brainer for me," Coach Augsberger stated.
Persistence in the Face of Adversity
From the start of this season, Coach Augsberger and the team fought needed to adjust due to injury woes. Aaron Chu '21, who was slated to lead the team as the first singles player, suffered from chronic back issues that required him to sit out the season. Aaron ultimately served in a role as a mentor to his younger brother, Josh Chu '23, who took over the role of top singles player. In addition, Andrew Marshall '22 and Neel Adusumilli '22 struggled with foot and knee injuries, respectively, and were unable to contribute on the court for much of the season, if at all.
"The injuries certainly presented a load of adversity for the team to overcome starting early on in the season. Fortunately, all of our injured players are phenomenal leaders and teammates and each has made their presence felt in a positive way for others on the court, during both practice and on match days," Coach Augsberger said.
The Boys Tennis team also faced a challenging schedule, featuring Pennington, Rutgers Prep, Pingry and Morristown-Beard in addition to MAPL league schools Hun, Blair, Lawrenceville and Hill. Though the team didn't finish with the overall record it set out for (4-6), Coach Augsberger expressed pride in the team's resilience and development this season.
"The team consistently battled from start to finish in matches, never giving in whether they lost a first set or other things weren't going their way. The ability and willingness to battle like that is something that you can't really teach," Coach Augsberger noted.
"With two younger players in Josh Chu and Jason Wu '23 competing as our top two singles players and Oliver Silverio '23 playing in our first doubles pair, this season provided a lot of valuable experience that will certainly pay dividends in the future. In taking on the best players our opponents had to offer each match, all of our younger players learned valuable lessons in key mental and physical aspects of the game that are crucial to success. Our seniors also consistently led by example with their work ethic, which surely rubbed off on the younger members of the team," he continued.
"I am excited to see the continued development of the returning members of our team as they move forward and become the new leaders as this senior class graduates. They are all hungry to learn every day and you can't ask for anything more than that as a coach. Their desire to improve in all facets of the game bodes well for the future as we look to build on the storied tradition of the PDS Tennis program," Coach Augsberger concluded.
Double or Nothing: Doubles Pairs Bring Home Prep Gold
The first doubles pairing of Aaron Phogat '21 and Oliver Silverio '23 and the all-senior second doubles pairing of Mark Santamaria '21 and Will Sedgley '21 put a memorable stamp on this season in the Prep B tournament. Both pairs qualified for the Prep B finals, though they each took slightly different paths to their respective championship matches. While Santamaria and Sedgley cruised through the quarter and semi-finals, Phogat and Silverio endured a dramatic semi-final match, overcoming a first set loss to win the second in a tie-breaker before triumphing in the third set.
In the finals, both PDS doubles pairings won their matches in straight sets to bring home individual gold and also secure the Panthers a third place team finish in the tight competition.
"I couldn't be prouder of the way that both teams attacked their Prep tournament matchups and handled everything that came their way. These four players certainly deserve to be called champions and they represented PDS in the tournament with honor and class," Coach Augsberger shared.
Celebrating the Class of 2021: Varsity and JV Senior Days
Brendan Chia '21
"Brendan understood his role and sacrificed all year to work hard and earn a spot in the lineup for Senior Day. Sure enough, he jumped out to take an early lead in that match! His smarts stand out even in this group of accoladed scholar-athletes," Coach Augsberger said.
Aaron Chu '21
"My first impression of Aaron came via Zoom meetings and it was clear from the start that he was a leader of this team. Barring injury, he would have played first singles and despite that he is still considered a star for the team even though he had to sit this season out due to his back. He is an excellent mentor to his brother, Josh, and the rest of the team. He truly loves his teammates," Coach Augsberger stated.
Aaron Phogat '21
"My first memory of Aaron was when he came to me with lineup suggestions. I said, 'Sure, if you want to email parents and plan practices too!'. But no one knows this team and its strengths and weaknesses better than Aaron. He’s shown he’s willing to sacrifice and put the team first, doing whatever it takes to help the squad," Coach Augsberger stated.
Mark Santamaria '21
"The first thing I learned about Mark was that he is 'the human backboard and fittest player on the team,' according to Coach JB. Mark made an excellent doubles pair with fellow senior Will Sedgley and their partnership has helped the team consistently score points in our matches," Coach Augsberger shared.
Will Sedgley '21
"Since Will is such a big Chelsea fan and I would occasionally catch him sneaking peaks at matches during practice, I realized nothing would motivate him to beat an opponent faster than to promise he could watch the Chelsea match after he wins. Sure enough, he and Mark routinely won their matches in short order! Will and Mark as a doubles team were a pleasure to coach this year and they always provided a consistent presence both in the results and also as senior members of the team," Coach Augsberger said.
Jacques Hughes '21
"Jacques played tennis as a freshman and a senior, and he has attended 54 practices in his two years of tennis. That shows his dedication to the team and the sport, as he continued to consistently come to play with the team even as senior events and requirements have increased. He made a great doubles team with Varun and often used his great athleticism to make plays on the court," Coach Dede Webster '62 stated.
Varun Rao '21
"Varun has attended 123 tennis practices in his four years, which is a fantastic example of his commitment to the team. I actually got to know Varun the best during the pandemic because he would routinely respond to my weekly team emails and start conversations about what was going on in life. He loves to attack the net and hit the overhead and I've always enjoyed his style of play on the court," Coach Dede Webster '62 remarked.
Overall Varsity Match Record: 4-6
Tennis Coaching Staff:
Varsity Head Coach: Michael Augsberger
Varsity Assistant Coach: Jon "JB" Brown
JV Head Coach: Dede Webster '62
JV Assistant Coach: Ferguson Reeves
Full Tennis Program Roster:
Saneel Adusumilli '22, Ronin Bae '24, Dhruv Balaji '23, Akash Bhowmick '23, Nathan Campbell '24, Theo Capeilleres '24, Brendan Chia '21, Aaron Chu' 21, Joshua Chu '23, David Cohen '23, Samuel Elkin '24, Max Glasgold '24, Jacques Hughes '21, Jai Kasera '23, Ansh Kulkarni '22, Harrison Leaver '24, Conner Lee '23, Evan Lin '24, Jason Ma '22, Andrew Marshall '22, Benjamin Maschler '23, William Maschler '24, Benjamin Masia '24, Albert Ming '22, Farhan Mohammad '23, Ian Nagelberg '24, Winston Ni '23, Tyler Olmstead '24, Siddharth Patel '23, Aaron Phogat '21, Thomas Poljevka '24, Varun Rao '21, Vinay Rao '21, Gautam Ravipati '22, Jinu Ryu '23, Tristan Salvner '24. Jared Sandberg '23, Mark Santamaria '21, William Sedgley '21, Kai Shah '22, Oliver Silverio '23, Samuel Tang '22, Jason Wu '23, Albert Zhou '23, Sasson Ziv-Loewy '24
For more information on the PDS Boys Tennis program, visit the team page here.
Photos (from top): Prep B tournament champions Will Sedgley, Oliver Silverio, Aaron Phogat and Mark Santamaria (l to r) posing with their medals; Coach Augsberger in front of the PDS logo on the courts; Senior Day photos (Varsity by Christine Cantera and JV by Jamie Will)