By Matthew Rocco
The Holmdel High School boys’ tennis team saw its streak of eight straight Shore Conference Tournament championships come to an end, but the Hornets were feeling confident that the state tournament would be a time for redemption.
The Hornets, the top seed in their bracket, swept their way to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group II finals using an overhauled lineup.
After a first-round bye, the Hornets cruised to victories over Monmouth Regional High School and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. In the semifinals against the Bulldogs, Holmdel’s Alex Tsai, filling in for the injured Brian Chu, cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 win at second singles. The Hornets also saw success in doubles play, despite moving Tsai to singles.
With no ill effects from moving players around, the Hornets felt good about their chances of winning a third consecutive Group II title.
Holmdel, the winner of the last seven sectional championships, was ready to face third-seeded Lawrence High School in the finals May 22. The Group II championship was scheduled for May 24.
“We had to shuffle the whole bottom of the lineup with Brian out, but Alex is as steady as they come. He doesn’t get rattled,” head coach Chuck Chelednik said. “It’s kind of a let’s-see-what-happens deal now. I think we have a good chance of getting out of the section.”
Chelednik said Tsai would likely take over third singles the rest of the way, replacing Chu, a sophomore who had manned the third-singles slot this season. Tsai had been playing doubles. In his stead, Holmdel has called on Clark Wang to play second doubles with senior Jose Angel. Allen Lu and Kevin Yan, who have played with each other all season, were moved up to first doubles.
The Hornets (20-4) will continue to look for their top two players to lead the way. Junior Justin Wain has been nearly unbeatable at first singles, and senior Harrison Lin has been just as strong at second singles.
Chelednik noted that Holmdel’s doubles tandems won their Shore Conference Tournament matches against Ocean Township High School, which made things interesting in its semifinal against Lawrence by sweeping doubles play. The Hornets, who haven’t played much against Lawrence in recent history, believed they were well-positioned to move forward to the group round.
Holmdel also took advantage of its time on the practice court, allowing the team to become familiar with its new positions in the order.
“We had a couple practice days in between matches, and they’ve got a couple matches under their belt. So [the changes] don’t weaken us significantly,” Chelednik said.
Christian Brothers Academy, the Monmouth County Tournament champion and conference tournament runner-up, also advanced to a sectional championship. The first-seeded Colts were lined up to play St. Augustine Preparatory School, the No. 3 seed, in the Non-Public, A South finals.