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J.P. Stevens claims fourth straight GMC tennis title

By Jimmy Allinder

Boys tennis

When the conversation is about the best boys tennis teams in the history of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC), it always includes John P. Stevens High School — and for good reason.

The Hawks won their fourth consecutive conference tournament championship April 25, scoring 46 points to top runner-up East Brunswick High School by six points. In GMC regular-season matches, J.P. Stevens (12-2) has also been dominant. With the exception of 4-1 and 3.5-1.5 victories over East Brunswick, the Hawks have twice beaten opponents by 5-0 scores and once against six others.

“[This streak] began when an extremely talented group of freshmen arrived in 2013,” J.P. Stevens coach Ellen Pisano said. “They are seniors now, and it’s due to their success that more quality players have been drawn to the program. We’re fortunate the Garden State Racket Club is right around the corner from the high school, and that’s where the players train during the offseason.”

Along with junior Alex Telson, the senior contingent helped the Hawks score enough points in the final day of GMC Tournament to enable them to beat East Brunswick, their chief rival. The Bears’ defending state singles champion, Josh Marchalik, defeated Vishal Walkia, but the Hawks prevailed at second singles (Gokul Murugesan), third singles (Telson) and first doubles (Gouttham Chandrasekar and Arjun Krishnan). Second doubles (Tarush Aneja and Nihar Prabhala) finished runner-up.

Yash Gogri is an additional member of the vaunted team who has contributed to its success.

This special class has not only excelled on the tennis court, but also in the classroom and will matriculate at a number of prestigious colleges in the fall. Walkia is attending New York University, Murguesan will head to The College of New Jersey, Chandrasekar is attending Duke University, Aneja will attend Indiana University and Gogri plans to enroll at Rutgers University.

With the departure of the seniors, Pisano will need to make lineup adjustments with current underclassmen in the lineup (Telson, Krishnan, and Prabhala are juniors) but will draw from a talented sprinkling of sophomores, freshmen and a new crop that will enter high school next year. She is excited about the team’s possibilities.

“There have been cycles of players coming and going here, but this group of seniors has proven their greatness,” she said. “Next year, we plan to reload and go after another title.”

Golf

The highly competitive J.P. Stevens girls golf team is currently 8-2 in dual meets, including a victory over last season’s GMC champion, East Brunswick. And it appears the Hawks will continue to be winners for the foreseeable future.

Only senior Riya Juneja (16 over par for nine holes) graduates from the team whose top two players, Grace We (10 over par) and Victoria Tan (14 over par), are juniors. Vritti Vizirani (15 over par) and Roshni Shenoy (16 over par) are sophomores, and Vidisha Jha (15 over par) is a freshman.

J.P. Stevens girls are in good hands with former veteran boys and girls volleyball coach Patti Savulich at the helm.

The Hawks’ boys team is facing a more difficult challenge against a number of quality teams in the conference and is 6-10 overall (3-8 in the GMC Red Division). The top two players are seniors Rohit Iyer (6 over par) and Dan Defilippo (9 over par). A pair of sophomores, Larry Xing (15 over par) and Justin Liang (15 over par), round out the regulars on the team.

It is highly unusual for a Group I school to sponsor both boys and girls golf teams, but the sport is so popular at Metuchen High School that head coach Rich Stoner has had no problem attracting players.

Last season’s boys team finished with a 14-0 dual-match record and is 5-2 thus far this season. The lineup for any given match (foursome) and tournament (fivesome) features only underclassmen. A junior, Colin Gaven, owns the best stroke average (9 over par), followed by sophomores Tom Resko (10 over par), Corey Williams (12 over par), Spencer Peyrot (12 over par), Jack Bradley (15 over par) and John Spera (15 over par).

The girls team (3-2) also features a wealth of underclassmen. Junior Haley Nugent and sophomore Katie Nugent are tied for best stroke average (8 over par), followed by sophomore Nina Chung (10 over par) and juniors Siya Zhang (15 over par), Morgan Switzer (20 over par) and Hannah Small (20 over par).

Stoner, a former basketball coach at Metuchen, says one of the reasons why the high school has experienced a wealth of golfers is that he is constantly promoting the sport to prospective players.

“Once [they] come out, it’s a matter of teaching and development,” he said.

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