Senior varsity tennis doubles partners Riley Helfrich and Cece Idinopulos have made winning look easy in a sport that is anything but that. As partners for five years, two in Upper School as Varsity No. 1 doubles, the duo have dropped a mere three matches and amassed a record of about 60-3. Remarkable.
Cece and Riley's contribution to the varsity program the last two seasons was immense; they were anchors on the Tigers' 2021 Friends Schools League Championship team, and didn't lose a match this past fall when the team advanced to the FSL semifinal. Their winning ways became such a mainstay that teammates practically counted on the win – one of three needed for the team victory – before the first ball was served. Last season, the two dropped one match to Moorestown Friends but beat them when it really mattered – two weeks later at the FSL Championship. Go back in time to Cece and Riley's seventh and eighth grade seasons to find their only other two defeats.
Outside of GFS, Cece and Riley have played together, on and off, since first grade at Germantown Cricket Club clinics, and became a dedicated doubles team in seventh grade. They captured the GCC B Grass-Court Women's Doubles tournament in the summers of 2022 and 2021.
Cece attributes the success of their play to tapping into each other's strengths and their deep connection.
"We've been best friends since kindergarten, so tennis has allowed us to spend more time with each other. We have great on and off-court chemistry so we play well together and it's always really fun."
"We've also been able to adapt and form strategies based on Riley's strengths at the baseline and mine at net, which has been pretty successful so far. Beyond the physical, we have very different personalities. Riley's more aggressive and brings more energy on-court, always thinking about strategy and the next point/game. I more so center us and keep us patient, so we don't make stupid mistakes. We always tap rackets after each point and consistently hype each other up," Cece said.
In addition to counting on each other, Cece and Riley were stellar captains this season, along with senior Alice Mather. Together, their complementary personalities led the squad to success.
"We've been on varsity for a couple of years now, so we understand the team dynamic pretty well. We really tried to cultivate a safe environment where people of all skill sets felt comfortable and confident. I think overall watching the team become closer was very gratifying and it's been a lot of fun getting to know everyone," Cece added.
Top GFS Tennis highlights for Cece and Riley were winning the 2021 FSL Championship and the FSL invitational in two consecutive seasons.
"It has been so rewarding to see the determination of these two athletes! They have competed against each other in practices and pushed each other. They have led the squad together as captains, worked together over the years, developed clear and consistent doubles strategy, and they have helped each other through the ups and downs of being a high-level double team. Cece and Riley are by far are one of the best all-time doubles teams Germantown Friends has ever put on the court. This duo has come through in a lot of clutch situations for our program and I really appreciate their leadership," said Director of Athletics Katie Bergstrom Mark.
With their GFS tennis careers behind them, Cece and Riley leave behind a legacy of consistency and strategy that underclasswomen will certainly work to emulate. Attaining a record of 60-3, however, may be one legacy that only they can relish.