By Jeff Appelblatt
Before Manalapan High School’s boys’ tennis team hopped on the bus to Lincroft April 27 to face Christian Brothers Academy (CBA), coach Darryl Birkhead had seen his team win most of its matches. It not only won seven of nine matches, but it also shut out its opponents in each of those seven wins.
When the Braves made it to Lincroft and lost that day, however, the Braves (7-3) were officially shut out, 5-0, in each of their losses.
“We lost 5-0, [and] we won 5-0 [in] every match,” Birkhead said.
Coincidentally, five was the number the math teacher was most familiar with at that point.
“We’re ranked No. 5 right now in the Shore [Conference],” he said before the team’s third loss. “Last year, we finished fourth in the Shore; right now, we’re five, which is good.”
He wasn’t certain how the rankings heading into the conference tournament would play out.
“We’ll know better after today’s match how we stand,” he said before getting dominated by CBA.
Manalapan’s coach just hoped that the match had less meaning in the rankings than he initially thought it would.
“Right now, we’re not even halfway through [the season],” Birkhead said, knowing that his team was going up against one of the top teams in the Shore Conference at CBA.
No matter how the rest of the regular season plays out, the coach doesn’t expect to see his team playing in the opening round of the Shore Conference Tournament.
“We’ve got a bye [in] the first round,” Birkhead said.
Then he’ll hope that Yash Trivedi, Konrad Slabinski and Bryan Pritsker are able to hit top form in time for the tournament’s singles matches. He will also hope the duos of Henrick Lekhno and Tarun Pilavulathil and Jake Gross and Saivamsi Polavarapu are ready for doubles.
Before tournament play got started, though, they had a match May 2 at Neptune High School and will travel to Manasquan High School for a 4 p.m. match May 3.