BY ANDREW GARDA
It could have taken an additional yr to get there, however Montclair Excessive Faculty’s boys tennis group will get the possibility to defend its 2019 NJSIAA North Jersey, Part 1, Group 4 title.
Final week the No. 2-seeded Mounties swept visiting No. 6 seed Kearny off the Mountainside courts with a 5-0 win that noticed them take each set and a lot of the video games.
Now, MHS takes on top-seeded Bergen Tech on Tuesday, June 1, on the street, in a repeat of that 2019 matchup.
In 2019, the Mounties felt a bit slighted heading into the match, believing they need to have been named the highest seed within the part. This yr, with no seniors and a really younger group, the Mounties are rightfully underdogs, however know they will compete with the Knights in the event that they play their greatest tennis.
Profitable the 2021 title can’t make up for a misplaced 2020, but it surely may go a good distance towards establishing this Mounties group as a group to be reckoned with going ahead.
“Final yr [before the season was canceled] I felt like we have been the favorites,” stated head coach Man Rabner. “This yr, I really feel like we’ll most likely be underdogs. [Bergen Tech is] a little bit bit extra completed this yr. They’ve a little bit bit higher group than that they had [in 2019]. So, if we’re going to win, we’ve to play rather well. Not that we will’t, however we’d should play on the prime of our video games and, you recognize, actually come by way of.”
Montclair has come by way of a couple of occasions this previous yr, which has been a little bit of a curler coaster, with massive wins over rival Montclair Kimberley Academy and West Essex paired with losses to Millburn — together with within the Essex County semifinals — and Newark Academy.
Like Newark Academy, Bergen Tech is a top-shelf opponent, however Montclair is using excessive after sweeping Kearny on Might 27.
It began with a fast second singles match the place junior Sol Cornejo made brief work of his opponent with a pair of 6-0 units. The primary doubles pairing of Noah Fishman and Elijah Ruderman and third singles freshman Miles Lee swept their opponents as nicely, and the second doubles pair of juniors Noah Pierre and Liam Rougebec dropped only one recreation of their 6-1, 6-0 win.
Solely the Mounties’ first singles had a battle on his arms, as freshman Tylan Ozkuzey went backwards and forwards with Kearny’s Gonzalo Koo, significantly within the second set, which ended with Ozkuzey profitable 7-5 to take the match 6-3, 7-5.
Montclair wasn’t even taking part in all of its starters as a result of accidents.
“We’ve got some accidents, you recognize, and our first doubles didn’t play immediately,” Rabner stated, referring to the conventional first doubles pairing of juniors Nolan Ogden and Jaden Ruderman. “They haven’t performed within the final 4 or 5 days as a result of they’ve been actually harm. Hopefully they will come again, and that’ll be a giant increase to us at the moment.”
With plenty of rain within the forecast for Memorial Day weekend, Rabner instructed the gamers to observe after they can, but when they’re harm, to care for themselves and prepare to present their greatest recreation of the season on Tuesday.
Regardless of the final result, on condition that not one of the group’s members was a starter in 2019, each step ahead in a match is sweet not only for confidence-building this yr, however in gaining expertise for the subsequent few years.
“Like I’ve stated earlier than, a very powerful factor is that we’re getting this expertise,” Rabner stated. “They’re studying they usually’re on the market they usually’re getting good matches in opposition to good competitors. That may solely assist us in the long term.”
That doesn’t imply the Mounties are solely excited about the long run.
“For this yr, they wish to win. I wish to win, too,” Rabner stated. “You realize, if we don’t, I’ll be disillusioned, however I’m reasonable and I do know that subsequent yr we’ll be again once more, and hopefully everybody will enhance.”
Rabner stated how the group performs within the ultimate — win or lose — shall be an important barometer for the way far it’s come this yr and the way far it may go in 2022.
First issues first, although. The Mounties have an opportunity to repeat 2019, and wish to benefit from it.
“The youngsters are having a superb time. They’re bonding rather well, and I believe it’s been a enjoyable season whatever the final result,” Rabner stated. “Clearly we hope we will win the state sectionals once more and defend our title. This yr we’re an underdog and I really feel like, yeah, nothing to lose.”