Montclair High School, Montclair Kimberley fall in state boys tennis team tournament
Both the Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy boys tennis teams were looking to be crowned state champions on the same day.
But both squads had uphill battles, facing two of the top five teams in the state.
Their plans to win the state championships were tight and slim, but the teams were hopeful that they could pull it out in the end.
Instead, both the Mounties and the Cougars, who were each second seeds in their sections, could not keep up with their counterparts, each the top seed.
Both locals lost 4-1, with Montclair falling to Bergen Tech and Montclair Kimberley bowing to Newark Academy on Tuesday, May 31, in the North 1 Group 4 and the Non Public North B state sectional title games, respectively. Montclair Kimberley's record slipped to 14-6 on the season, while Montclair fell to 14-8.
Despite the defeat, Montclair head coach Guy Rabner could not have been happier to get to the sectional finals and a shot at a title. "I'm glad that we came this far," Rabner said. "They fought hard and played their best. I'm proud of them."
Montclair Kimberley had the tougher opponent, Newark Academy, considered the best team in the state. And the team that beat Montclair, Bergen Tech, suffered its only loss to Newark Academy.
It was the second season in a row that the Mounties dropped the North 1 Group 4 state sectional final to Bergen Tech. Last year they lost by the same score, 4-1.
The Montclair team had a tough start in the first sets of matches across the board, and it was uphill from there.
The Mounties dropped the first set in all five matches by a couple of games, and the pressure was on to catch up after the heat moved the match indoors at the Franklin Lakes Racquet Club. "They are a very good team, and to come close, it is deflating," Rabner said about the first set. "Mentally it was tough to get past."
Rabner had a road map to defeating the Knights, with hopes for victories in the third singles and second doubles, combined with squeezing out another win in another level for the three victories needed to win the state title.
The second doubles came through, with senior Jaden Ruderman and junior Rainen Solomon continuing to click for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. "They have been playing very well together," Rabner said.
But in third singles, senior Avery Bronner, who has been the most reliable Mountie this season, dropped a 6-4, 6-2 decision to Bergen Tech's Udbhav Devarakonda.
And Montclair could not get a couple wins out of the other levels.
Rabner added that some of the Montclair players were coming off injuries and weren't 100 percent.
For Montclair Kimberley, junior Lukas Selassie was the sole winner, taking third singles with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 win over Newark Academy's Eddie Ho.
Like Montclair the Cougars — except for Selassie — got off to a slow start, and it was an uphill battle after that.
MKA had received a bye in the first two rounds before defeating third-seeded Morristown Beard, 4-1, at home on May 26.
Freshman Sean Wang and Selassie took two-set victories in second and third singles respectively against Morristown Beard.
In addition, both doubles teams won in straight sets against Morristown-Beard. Senior Dhruv Jetley and junior Aiden Szilagyi, along with senior Brandon Yeu and sophomore Christopher Hernandez, had easy times at first and second teams, respectively.
Coming into the match against Bergen Tech, the Mounties had plowed through the first two rounds with consecutive 5-0 wins over Memorial and Ridgewood on May 25 and 26 in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, respectively.
Against Ridgewood, the three singles won in two sets, while both of the doubles teams — Ruderman-Solomon along with seniors Leon Wang and Noah Fishman — had to go to three sets to win.
With the state team tournament over, some of the individuals will be part of the state individual tournament that starts June 11. Rabner said both sophomore Tylan Ozkuzey in the singles and the doubles team of Wang and Nolan Ogden will be part of the state meet.