By Matthew Rocco
The Holmdel High School girls’ tennis team earned its fifth straight Shore Conference Tournament (SCT) championship — the beginning of what the Hornets hope is another strong run in the postseason.
The top-seeded Hornets met Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School in the SCT finals, and they breezed to a 5-0 win Sept. 30 to lock up the conference title. Holmdel swept every match except for first singles, where Holmdel’s unbeaten senior Brianna Gibbs put a point on the board with a 6-3, 6-2 win over RBC’s Julie Moschella.
Now the Hornets are pursuing a state sectional title. Holmdel, seeded first in NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group II, earned a first-round bye. In the quarterfinals, the Hornets booked a ticket to the next round with a 5-0 shutout of Lawrence High School. Gibbs, Ola Wojciak and Rita Vought swept singles play. Emily Kong and Vicky Vought grabbed a point in first doubles, while Natalie Cipriano and senior Jaimee Ratkoski completed the sweep at second doubles.
Holmdel (13-0) will play fourth-seeded Ocean Township High School in a semifinal bout Oct. 14. The championship match is scheduled for Oct. 18.
Perhaps the biggest test in preparation for tournament season came against Lawrenceville School in a friendly match that Holmdel lost, 3-2. It was a teachable moment for the Hornets, who are working on improving their game in time for the tough matches to come.
“It was more of a practice match, but they were finally tested and we got a little shaky. It was good for us. I was glad to see how they would respond. That’s why I scheduled it,” head coach Chuck Chelednik said.
“I would like to see my doubles be more aggressive. [The team] can continue to improve and have a little more confidence in their net game and serve consistently.”
In the state singles tournament, Gibbs received the No. 4 seed, while defending champion Stephanie Schrage of Millburn High School was awarded the first seed. Wojciak, Holmdel’s junior second singles player, Moschella, Shore Regional High School’s Halah Davis, Middletown High School North’s Nicole Gasser and Ranney School’s Sophia Salvador are also competing for the singles title.
The Hornets are also represented in the state doubles competition. Kong and Vought haven’t dropped a match this season as the first doubles pair for Holmdel. They lost a hard-fought match in last year’s Tournament of Champions by a score of 6-4, 7-6 (5).
The Hornets also have their sights on the Monmouth County Tournament, which was delayed by rain during the first weekend of October. A makeup date has yet to be announced.
Chelednik expects the Hornets to continue making progress on the court as they face the best teams in New Jersey. As for Holmdel’s level of confidence moving forward, the team is determined to meet its own high expectations. The Hornets have won the last two NJSIAA Group II team titles, advancing all the way to the Tournament of Champions finals both times.
“I like to see them get tested and play better teams, and they expect to do well,” Chelednik said.