By Jimmy Allinder
The Metuchen High School girls’ tennis team may be just an NJSIAA Group I program, but that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs can’t compete with the big boys.
Metuchen (10-0 overall) has not only beaten teams from its own Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division, but also larger schools from the Red Division. When the conference tournament began Sept. 26, the Bulldogs hoped to mount a serious threat to topple one of the traditional powers for the title, such as last year’s champion, South Brunswick High School, and always strong John P. Stevens High School.
“We’re extremely deep, as has been the case the last several years,” Metuchen coach Rob Strauss said. “And with the addition of [freshman] Erika Rems (10-0), we have even more depth. She’s not only one of the best players in the GMC, but also in the state.”
Rems occupies first singles and is followed in the second slot by senior Siri Uppuluri (9-0) and at third singles by junior Izzy Hong (8-2).
The first doubles team is comprised of junior Katie Hong and sophomore Ilakiya Udahayakumar (9-1) and juniors Sonia Mersich and Maddy Fenner (10-0).
What’s even more remarkable about Metuchen’s success is that many of the players have arrived with little or no experience.
“Some have natural abilities and athleticism, and that makes it easier to learn a new sport,” Strauss said. “I’ve been fortunate to coach hard-working and extremely focused girls who are willing to learn the fundamentals of tennis and then devote their energy to strategizing and executing ways to beat formidable opponents.”
Coming off a 10-10 season a year ago, the Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen soccer team sport an even record at 2-2-2 at this early juncture of the season.
The mixed results, however, demonstrate the Falcons can be a formidable team if they play their “A” game, which includes a 2-2 tie with a quality East Brunswick High School team — one of a number of quality opponents that make up the GMC Red Division.
Leading the scoring is senior Antonio Oliveira, who has registered eight goals, while Nick Cruz, who was thinking about playing in Spain but has decided to remain at St. Joe’s, has two goals and five assists.
Dan Desire has four assists, Chris Nguyen has scored twice and Andrew Carchi, senior Owen Donnelly, Matt Pinto and Tour’s Reaves have each scored a goal. Junior Ryan Brede has yet to score but brings experience and leadership to the team. Senior goalkeeper Gurjivan Kalkat is set to return after suffering a broken nose in the preseason and has been spelled by Christian Owens, who has 53 saves.
The J.P. Stevens boys soccer team is 1-3-1 and also looking to improve its record in the Red Division. The Hawks are coached by veteran Bill McMullen, who enters his 30th season.
J.P. Stevens has two players who have scored twice: seniors Ryan Minor and Darshan Patel. The others are Sayak Ghosh and Nayin Ramsaroon, who have a goal each, while Minor has two assists. Neil Gayam, Ghosh, Arnav Jain and Sushanth Vulpala each have an assist.
Junior goalkeeper Max Glinn has stopped 34 shots.
Others who see regular action include senior Paul Trevidic and Austin John.
“Ryan’s our captain, and his nonstop style and skill makes him the workhorse of the team,” McMullen said. “Paul gives us steady and consistency in the midfield, and Max has sure hands in the net. Our midfield, which includes Ryan, Darshan, Arnav and Austin are the focus of our attack.”
There was a major reason why the Metuchen football team opened the season with a 28-7 victory over GMC Blue Division foe Middlesex High School but dropped a 33-22 decision to Shore Conference opponent Monmouth Regional High School the following game.
As head coach Bob Ulmer predicted, injuries drastically changed the team’s performance when the Bulldogs faced Monmouth Regional.
In particular, senior offensive and defensive end Devin Miller exited the game in the third quarter due to an undisclosed injury. His absence was a major reason why the Bulldogs relinquished a 14-0 halftime lead and allowed Monmouth Regional to register all its points in the last two quarters.
“I’ve been pleased with how well Willie Rojas has done at running back,” Ulmer said about the senior starting for the first time. “He’s averaged over 100 yards (135 yards). Justin Briggs, our fullback, has averaged 75 yards and is tough to bring down. He’s also an excellent lead blocker for Willie.”
Quarterback Will Hronich is 13-of-24 in the passing department for 240 yards and two touchdowns.