By RICH FISHER
For The Trentonian
WEST WINDSOR In Richard Arnolds mind, a perfect world constitutes having more worlds to conquer.
Arnolds West Windsor-Plainsboro South boys tennis team won the NJSIAA Group IV championship at Mercer County Park yesterday by taking a 5-0 victory over Westfield. It was the Pirates sixth state title and first since 2005.
So what does it mean to Arnold, in his first year as head coach, to be a perfect 19-0 with Mercer County and Group IV titles in hand?Advertisement
Were not done yet, he said. In the immortal words of Mike Holmgren after the Packers won their championship game. Well enjoy this today but were not done.
Arnold was referring to next weeks Tournament of Champions, which begin Tuesday at Mercer Park.
A team that will not be there but can still take pride in its season is Hopewell Valley (16-1), which reached the Group III finals with a 3-2 win over Tenafly but fell victim to powerful Millburn, 4-1, in the finals. It was fourth straight state title for New Jerseys top-ranked team, and 21st overall.
Im just really proud of them for coming out here and being as competitive as they are with the elite teams in the state, said HoVal coach Alma Quinlan, who guided the Bulldogs to their first Central Jersey title in 30 years. Millburn had no weaknesses. You dont get ranked number one with a weak spot in the lineup.
After an excruciating 3-2 win over Livingston in the semifinals, West Windsor breezed in the championship match.
Michael Song, Thomas Weng and Dan Vaysburd won at singles, while John Hu-Peter Ku and Nikhil Gavai-Mike Herelle won at doubles.
This is really big, Herelle said. After coming so close and losing in the finals last year, this year we can actually say were Group IV champions and get to that elite Tournament of Champions stage. Theres no better feeling in New Jersey tennis.
We had so much momentum from that (Livingston) match, Gavai said. We brought it into the Westfield match and we never stopped, we kept on fighting through.
Theyre smart enough that they knew Westfield wasnt as good on paper as Livingston because Livingston beat Westfield pretty badly, Arnold said. But you can have a letdown. Great teams beat great teams and lose to them the next round.
WWPS was ripe for a letdown as the Pirates and Hopewell both won extremely tense semifinal matches.
HoVal started well against Tenafly, ran into a little lull but got a tense straight-set victory from first singles Kenny Zheng over Ben Birkenfeld to win 3-2.
After second singles Marc Friedland and second doubles Laurent Guenin-Alex Ochalski won their matches, all eyes turned to first singles. Zheng, the 2011 Mercer County Tournament champion, won the first set 7-6 (7-1) and was taken to the limit again before pulling out a 7-5 victory.
That advanced Hopewell to its first final since 1982, when it fell to West Morris Mendham in Group II. That was also the last time Hopewell won a sectional title.
I had no clue about that, said Friedland, a senior and veteran starter. Weve been close every year. Weve gone to the (sectional) semis the past couple years and this is the only time weve gone to the sectional final and passed it, and the whole thing was just awesome.
Awesome was a good way to describe the excitement of the semi between WW-PS and defending TOC champion Livingston, which avenged West Windsors loss to the North Jersey squad in last years finals.
That was sweet revenge, Herelle said. Theyre a really good team, so to beat them, not many people knew we were a solid team. . .
. . .but now they see were a force to be reckoned with, chimed in Gavai.
The Pirates got straight set wins from Vaysburd at third singles and Herelle-Nikhil Gavai at second doubles.
With the score tied 2-2, Hu and Ku trailed Spencer Luster-Kevin Sun 4-1 in the third set. They battled back from that hole, and from deficits of 5-4 and 6-5 to force a tiebreaker. Riding all the momentum, WWPS went up 3-0 in the tiebreaker won 7-4.
That was pretty scary, Ku said. But we bounced back from losing the first set. We knew we could do it, we just had to focus and remember to be aggressive and then our shots worked out.
Some of the tiebreaker volleys were breathtakingly nerve-wracking, and the match had numerous spectators and fans cheering loudly for each point.
We just extract the energy from our teammates, Hu said. Without them we couldnt really do anything. The shouts from them boosted our adrenaline just got us through it.
In summing up what it meant to put his team in the finals, Ku pulled no punches.
It was probably, he said, the best feeling of my high school tennis career.
Until one match later.
And theyre not done yet.
GROUP IV FINALS
WW-P South 5, Westfield 0
1st singles: Michael Song (W) def. Scott Thompson, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3
2nd singles: Thomas Weng (W) def. Adam Greene, 6-2, 6-4
3rd singles: Dan Vaysburd (W) def. Max Mancini 6-2, 6-1
1st doubles: John Hu-Peter Ku (W) def. Jacob Harris-Jack Rickles, 6-2, 6-1
2nd doubles: Mike Herelle-Nikhil Gavai (W) def. Jacob Ziff-Justin Cafiero, 6-1, 6-4
Records: WW-P South 19-0, Westfield 22-8
GROUP II FINALS
Millburn 3-1/2, Hopewell Valley 1-1/2
1st singles: Peter Zheng (H) draw with Tyler Schick, 7-5, 1-3
2nd singles: Marc Friedland (H) draw with Robert Xie 5-7, 4-3
3rd singles: Dean Koman (M) dec. Ahmed Al-Shawafi 6-1, 6-4
1st doubles: Jared Wishnow-Mac Johnson (M) dec. Trevor Johnson-Russell Nicholson, 6-2, 6-2
2nd doubles: Nicky Chen-Schmidt-Teddy Moskovitz (M) dec. Laurent Guenin-Alex Ochalski 6-1, 6-4.
Records: Millburn 25-2, Hopewell 16-1
GROUP III SEMIFINALS
Hopewell Valley (16-0) 3, Tenafly (20-2) 2
1st singles: Kenny Zheng (H) def. Ben Birkenfeld 7-6 (7-1), 7-5.
2nd singles: Marc Friedland (H) def. Ethan Goldman, 6-2, 6-1.
3rd singles: Uri Hochfeld (T) def. Ahmed Al-Shawafi 6-1, 1-6, 6-4
1st doubles: Nate Harris-William Torsiglieri (T) def. Trevor Johnson-Russell Nicholson 7-6, 3-6, 7-6
2nd doubles: Laurent Guenin-Alex Ochalski (H) def. Stewart Fine-Dan Lee 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.
Team records: Hopewell 16-0, Tenafly 20-2
GROUP IV SEMIFINALS
WW-P SOUTH (18-0) 3, Livingston (26-5) 2
1st singles: Thomas Caputo (L) def. Michael Song, 7-6 (7-4) 6-1
2nd singles: Varun Dyapa (T) def. Thomas Weng 6-2, 6-4
3rd singles: Dan Vaysburd (W) def. Anthony Caputo 6-3, 6-3
1st doubles: Peter Ku-John Hu (W) def. Spencer Luster-Kevin Sun 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4)
2nd doubles: Mike Herelle-Nikhil Gavai (W) def. Adam Friedman-Greg Lubin 6-2, 6-3
Team records: West Windsor 18-0, Livingston 26-5
This news has been published by title State Tennis: Holmdel Tops WW PS, To Face Millburn In TOC Finals
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