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Holmdel has another strong girls’ tennis campaign

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Holmdel has another strong girls’ tennis campaign

By Matthew Rocco

The 2016 season was more of the same for the title-winning Holmdel High School girls’ tennis team.

For the fifth year in a row, the Hornets won the Shore Conference Tournament. For the third year in a row, the Hornets were NJSIAA Group II champions. But once again, for the third straight time, the Hornets lost to Millburn High School in the Tournament of Champions finals.

The Hornets fell just shy of beating Millburn in their championship rematch Oct. 26. Holmdel was out in front, 3-2, at the end of the first set across all matches. But Millburn managed to flip the script in first doubles. Holmdel’s Vicky Vought and Emily Kong were unable to seal the deal against Millburn’s Sara Jacobs and Isabella Waung — the tandem that won this year’s state doubles title.

Millburn held on the rest of the way, winning the Tournament of Champions by squeaking past the Hornets, 3-2 — matching the final score from last year’s final.

“It was exciting to get back to the finals for the third time in a row. It’s disappointing losing. It was within our grasp,” head coach Chuck Chelednik said.

The loss — Holmdel’s lone defeat in a 22-1 campaign — won’t cast a shadow over the entire season. The Hornets dominated the competition, going a perfect 5-0 in all but two bouts all season: the state finale against Millburn and a 4-1 win over Shore Regional High School two days later.

“We were one of the last two teams left in the state,” Chelednik said. “We don’t take that for granted.”

For the 2017 season, the Hornets have a deep lineup of players to help fill the void left by this year’s seniors. In fact, it was Holmdel’s underclassmen that rose to the occasion in the Tournament of Champions finals, offering a preview of what they can accomplish in a year’s time.

Junior Alexandra Wojciak earned a point for the Hornets with a win over Alexandra Pritsker at second singles, 6-4, 7-6 (3). Fellow junior Rita Vought beat Sydney Zirlin at third singles, 6-1, 7-5.

“Our second and third singles will be back, and we have a lot of great players who will move up,” Chelednik said.

Senior Brianna Gibbs, who is one of the top players in the Shore Conference, will be sorely missed. Gibbs was undefeated in team play this season until her match against Millburn’s Stephanie Schrage.

The Hornets will also bid farewell to senior doubles players Kong and Jaimee Ratkoski.

One of the hallmarks of Holmdel’s program is the ability to keep the talent flowing, and Chelednik expects the team to pick up where it left off.

“Our younger players on [junior varsity] watch it, want to be a part of it and want to get better,” he said. “They know that to get this far, you need to step up and improve over the next nine months, and when they step up, they usually make the most of it.”