The Montclair High School boys tennis team believes it will turn the close matches that resulted in defeats in 2021 into victories this spring.

The Mounties finished last season with an 11-9 record, with a handful of matches that they lost by a score of 3-2.

“We want to outperform last year’s season, in which we lost many close matches to top-10 teams, including a close loss to Bergen Tech in the state sectional final,” Montclair head coach Guy Rabner said.

The Mounties lost 4-1 to Bergen Tech, but two of those matches were three-set defeats that could have given Montclair a 3-2 win if they went the other way.

The optimism this season comes because almost the entire 2021 team returns for 2022.

“Last year we were very junior-heavy, and this year that inexperienced team from last year hopefully can beat some of those better teams with a year of seasoning,” Rabner said. 

There is no doubt that this version of Montclair boys tennis will also make a run for the Essex County Tournament title. The Mounties lost 5-0 to Millburn in the ECT semifinals last year.

Rabner knows that it will be tough to bring home a county crown, especially with  defending champion Newark Academy in the field, when the 2022 tournament is held April 19 and 23. “Newark Academy is likely to be heads above the rest of the county, and I expect us to battle Millburn for the second-best spot,” the coach said.

The singles are the Mounties’ strength and are led by sophomore Tylan Ozkuzey, who is back at first singles. “I like his passion, his grit and his willingness to experiment with new things and strive to improve,” Rabner said. “He may be our only underclassman starter, but his experience and skill level far exceeds his age.”

The coach said that he expects his second and third singles to register several victories during the season. “We have a solid singles lineup, and our second and third singles positions should be very strong,” he said.

At second singles the Mounties have senior Sol Cornejo, who is the lone four-year starter on the squad. “He is a very good, athletic player with so much experience,” Rabner said. “He was second doubles on our state championship team three years ago and has seen a lot in his time on the team. He has a big serve, big ground strokes with the flexibility to play an all-court game.”

attachment-Montclair boys tennis Cornejo for 4-14-22 DSC_047
Senior Sol Cornejo will be at second singles for Montclair. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)

At third singles, Montclair has senior Avery Bronner. “He’s a very athletic player with solid topspin, hard ground strokes,” the coach said about Bronner, who transferred from Paramus Catholic, where he played first singles last year and qualified for the state individual tournament.

At first doubles are seniors Nolan Ogden and Leon Wang. “They stood out in the preseason as our most solid doubles players who have the potential to beat some great teams when playing well and consistently,” Rabner said. “They have strong, athletic games and big serves which, when working, can dominate the competition. I’m hoping for big wins from them this season.”

The second doubles team is expected to have different combinations during the season. The first combo is senior twins Elijah and Jaden Ruderman. 

Montclair boys tennis schedule

(Matches at  4 p.m. unless noted)

April 13 Seton Hall Prep

April 14 at Westfield

April 18 Livingston

April 19 Essex County Tournament, TBD

April 21 Millburn

April 23 Essex County Tournament, TBD

April 25 at Caldwell

April 27 Columbia

May 2 at West Essex

May 5 at MKA

May 9 Newark Academy

May 10 at Millburn

May 14 at Westfield

May 16 Glen Ridge

May 17 Tenafly