MONTGOMERY: MHS captures Group IV tennis title

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By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The opponents keep getting tougher and tougher and the Montgomery High boys tennis team keeps responding., The Cougars faced a huge challenge on Monday against West Windsor-Plainsboro South in the Central Jersey Group IV final and came away with a 3-2 win. Two days later they defeated Westfield in the state Group IV semifinals, 4-1, before topping Livingston, 5-0, for the Group IV state title., The Cougars improved to 20-0 with the wins this week and earned the No. 1 seed for the Tournament of Champions. Montgomery received an opening-round bye and will open play on Wednesday at Mercer County Park against the winner of the match between Delbarton and Mountain Lakes., The toughest of the three matches proved to be against WW-P South, who the Cougars had defeated in a close match earlier this season. This time they pulled out a 3-2 win against a very talented Pirates team., “Going into the match we didn’t know what South’s setup would be because we thought the lineup might be different,” said Chris Guo, who joined James Hopper for a win at first doubles. We knew regardless of who played they would be strong. After we knew who we were playing we knew we had to get to the net because we know Matt (Michibata) and Akul (Telluri) are very good players.”, The Cougars had defeated the Pirates, 3-2, when the teams played in the Delbarton Tournament early in the season. This time the South lineup looked a little different but Montgomery still came away with a win., “We knew when the brackets came out it would be our toughest match of the year,” Hopper said. “So for the weeks coming up to it we really prepared in practice and worked hard. So when the match came we were 100 percent prepared., “We knew it would be a close match for the team but in that situation you have to think about yourself and not be distracted by the courts around you. You have to trust your teammates that they can do the job as well.”, Montgomery has been solid all season with Vishnu Joshi, Ishaan Ravichander and, Mark Fridman at the singles slots. And with Guo and Hopper at first doubles along with the second doubles pairing of Liam Lynch and Phillip Szkudlarski, the lineup is as deep and talented as any lineup in the state., Both of the Montgomery doubles teams are undefeated this season., “The chemistry was there all along,” Guo said of his pairing with Hopper. “When James came from Britain we played soccer together. After a while I was balancing soccer and tennis and chose tennis. And then James also chose tennis. When we came up to high school we started talking more and got to know each other better. Our coach put the doubles teams together and I think he saw it much earlier than we did that we could be a good team. After playing a few matches together in challenges I could really see our success as team.”, The whole lineup has been coming through this season for the Cougars. In 20 matches they have lost 10 of 100 matches, with four of those coming against WW-P South. They also swept all five flights of the Somerset County Tournament., Guo and Hopper have been a microcosm of the team’s success., “From when we were kids we have been good friends,” Hopper said. “You can see how well we work together on the court. We’re never down at the same time. It’s always a good time on court whether it is a close point we could have won or if we played a bad point., “At Delbarton early in the season we knew we could do well. Our first match together was Moorestown at Delbarton and we knew that was high level tennis and we needed to be able to perform. So all the practice leading up that was really intense. I think playing outside of high school really helped us succeed right from the start.”