Montclair High School boys tennis hoping to serve up a state championship this spring
The Montclair boys tennis team will be battling through one of the toughest conferences and counties in the state for the 2023 season.
The Mounties will have to beat out what is considered the best team in New Jersey, Newark Academy, in the race for the Super Essex Conference American Division title and the Essex County Tournament championship.
And there are the likes of Millburn, Montclair Kimberley and Livingston in the SEC American that will be very competitive this season. The Mounties defeated Livingston, 4-1, in the season opener on April 3 on the road.
Montclair head coach Guy Rabner said that the goal is to win a state sectional title. Last year the Mounties lost to Bergen Tech in the 2022 North 1 Group 4 state finals. He added that the state championship is winnable this season.
"We want to compete as well as we can in the county tournament and compete against the best teams all season," the coach said, adding that the team might be a year away from the county titles with the obstacle of Newark Academy in its way.
"We have a very junior-heavy team this year, so getting valuable varsity experience will be at a premium so we can be even better next year is a goal as well."
In terms of the states there's a good chance that Montclair will face Bergen Tech again for the North 1 Group 4 state sectional championship. "I’d say if we improve during the season, we will have a shot at beating them," Rabner said.
He points to strength at number one singles, junior Tylan Ozkuzey, as well as the depth of the rest of the roster.
"Our first singles will be a strength, as will our depth and skills at doubles," the coach said. "We have five, six players that all can play pretty equally."
Last season Ozkuzey was the leader of the Mounties, who finished with a team record of 14-8. He was named to the SEC American first team.
"Tylan has steadily improved in power, ability to play the better players closer and can hit a bit harder with some real weapons now," Rabner said. "I’m hoping he gets to be one of the best 20 players in New Jersey this year."
After Ozkuzey, Montclair has two new players at second and third singles in senior Rainen Solomon and junior Trent Tauber respectively, who take over for graduated seniors Sol Cornejo and Avery Bronner.
Solomon moves from doubles last season. "He’s a great competitor, and when playing well can really compete against players better than him and will be good as a senior leader," Rabner said.
One of the keys this season might be Tauber and how he progresses. "He’s improved a ton," the coach said. "He needs match play and confidence, and this should be a good spot for him. I’m hoping he can both improve a lot, get valuable experience and also be a solid player for us who can get us some big wins."
In terms of doubles, the Mounties have a good group to choose from, but it might take some time to come up with consistent combinations.
"It varies, but this year it’s taking longer than usual," Rabner said. "Everyone is beating everyone else, and it’s hard to nail down set lineups. We’ll probably do a lot of experimenting early on. They’re all at a solid level and will compete and gain valuable experience."
In the first match at Livingston, the first doubles consisted of junior Max Korenbaum and senior Jasper Spoor, who lost a tough three-setter that went to a tiebreaker, 1-6, 7-5, 6-7 (11-9). Against West Orange on April 10, the first doubles were the pair of senior Aaron Silverman and junior Max Gofton. The Mounties won first doubles against the Mountaineers as Montclair won 4-1 in the SEC battle.
The second doubles team comprised a pair of juniors, Teddy Ogden and Matthew Vincenti, who won, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, over the Lancers.
In the early going Montclair will be tested at home by Millburn on April 14 and also get its first taste of Newark Academy on the road on April 20.
Montclair Boys Tennis Schedule
(Matches at 4 p.m. unless noted)
April 14 Millburn
April 15 Bryan Bennett Invitational at Delbarton, TBD
April 16 Bryan Bennett Invitational at Delbarton, TBD
April 17 Livingston
April 18 Essex County Tournament, TBD
April 20 at Newark Academy
April 24 Seton Hall Prep
April 26 at Glen Ridge
May 1 Hillsborough
May 3 Montclair Kimberley
May 8 at Millburn
May 10 at West Essex
May 11 at Tenafly
May 15 Columbia
May 16 Westfield
May 18 Newark Academy