Bob Shwalb, Special to NorthJersey.com
TAPPAN – After Beata Liberchuk lost the second set of her Bergen County Tournament first singles final and fell into an 0-3 hole in the third, she was ready to give up.
Between the sets, Dwight-Englewood coach Chris Chan had given her what he joking called “the greatest inspirational pep talk of his career” to no avail. Chan tried again at the 0-3 changeover and this time it worked as Liberchuk reeled off six straight games to beat Leonia’s Liya Davidov and claim the small-schools crown.
“I told him, ‘Chris … I can’t do it anymore’, Liberchuk recalled. ‘I can’t come back and I can’t focus.’
“He was like, ‘It’s obviously up to you. It’s your decision whether you want to play or not. But I believe in you and I believe you can do it.’ So I told him I’d try.”
On Sunday, Liberchuk’s effort helped Dwight-Englewood claim its fourth consecutive Bergen County title. The Bulldogs also got a second-singles victory from senior Emily Katz and doubles wins from the pairs of Maddy Kachikian/Olivia Greenberg and Sammy Greenberg/Marion Kemelman. The victors totaled 19 points while Leonia and Pascack Hills tied for second with 11.
This fall, Liberchuk took over her team’s first singles spot for Emily Sivarak, who beat Davidov in last year’s final and is currently out with a wrist injury. Liberchuk, who reached the county quarterfinals as a freshman before sitting out the next two years, said she’d already decided to return before Sivarak was hurt.
“I really missed it,” Liberchuk said. “Tennis is such an individual sport and playing for a team is so much more fun. It’s my senior year and I wanted to end it on a really good note. I can’t think of any better way than winning this.”
On Sunday, Davidov wrapped up her own superb county tournament career, which included consecutive appearances in the first-singles finals and a second-singles title as a sophomore. After displaying her incredible will, coming back from a first-set loss against Liberchuk before falling in the end, Davidove was in a good place.
“Last year, I didn’t feel like I gave it my all,” Davidov said. “This year, I left it all on the court and never backed down. In the end, Beata just played a better match.”
In the second-singles finals, Katz made up for previous county losses in the second- and third-singles finals by beating Leonia’s Bianka Lieber. The Bulldog senior led 6-5 in the first set when Lieber retired because of a hip injury.
“I have three brothers (Ricky, Daniel and Jason) who all have county titles and I wanted one for myself,” Katz said. “I worked really hard for this over the past year and I’m glad I got it.”
Sunday’s final winner was Leonia freshman Reana Radu, who captured the third-singles crown. The unseeded Lion beat Mahwah’s third-seeded Srusti Chandra, Ramsey’s second-seeded Nicole Choi and finally Dwight-Englewood’s top-seeded Kira Trout in straight sets in the finals to take the prize.
“When it ended I was like, ‘I can’t believe I just won counties’,” Radu said. “I was overwhelmed … I didn’t know what to do. Then I was like, ‘O.K… let me go shake her hand’.”