The aged adage states, “Players win games, teams win championships,” and on Monday afternoon, no phrase proved more accurate.
The Central Jersey Group II sectional final match featured a pair of Shore Conference titans as top seeded Holmdel played host to No. 3 Manasquan in a weather-shortened clash that would end in favor of the Hornets by a mark of 3.5-1.5.
Upon the match’s completion, there was no pomp and circumstance, nor a celebratory dog pile at center court, but a collective air of belonging and the type of prideful expectation that accompanies a program’s fourth consecutive sectional title.
This accomplishment was the result of experience, a team’s solidarity, and what’s more, depth — a fact recognized by Hornets head coach Chuck Chelednik and his players alike.
“Our depth is the key,” explained Hornets senior leader and first singles competitor Katie McKay. “Not many programs have doubles teams as good as ours. And across the board, we’re all solid players that enjoy supporting one another.”
“My doubles teams have been the backbone of this team the entire year,” said Chelednik. “Sarah (Yan) as a freshman has been playing really well and progressing as a doubles player as the year has gone on. Nandini (Krishnaswamy) was sick for a while, but now is back and playing really well. To have our doubles teams playing at such a high level is a huge boost.”
And yet again, the Hornets doubles teams proved too much for the opposition as the aforementioned Yan and Krishnaswamy earned a swift 6-1, 6-1 second doubles victory, while the top pairing of Lauren Byrket and Tiffany Huang, a duo that appeared to play with a massive chip on their shoulders after being knocked out of the NJSIAA state doubles tournament this past weekend, played to an equivalent 6-1, 6-1 decision.
However, it was Alicia Lai’s second singles victory that officially clinched the championship for Holmdel. The junior got out to a quick start landing a staggering blow with a 6-0 first set victory, eventually finishing off a concluding set by a mark of 6-2.
Manasquan’s Brianne Lauria provided the Warriors’ lone bright spot with an impressive third singles performance that saw the freshman produce a clean win by scores of 6-1 and 6-1.
First singles competition featured the Hornets’ McKay and the Warriors’ Abby Duddy, the latter putting the pressure on Holmdel’s senior captain with an easy first set victory by a mark of 6-1. McKay would battle back with a hard fought 6-4 second set victory before the draw was decided due to inclement weather.
“Winning that second set was huge for me,” said McKay. “Proving that I can play with one of the best around is really big, and big confidence booster moving forward.”
The sectional championship was the fourth of McKay’s career, a feat that is still thrilling to the senior.
“It’s always an accomplishment to win, no matter how many times you’ve done it before. It’s always a big deal. It’s always exciting.”
Coach Chelednik views this championship as more than a thrilling moment, but an important challenge overcome at the right time of year.
“With the girls it’s all about momentum and confidence. Today was a nice challenge for us because Manasquan was coming in hot after beating Rumson and RBC. Ultimately, our goal is to get back to Haddonfield again, play Haddonfield again, and see what happens. This match was a nice step in that direction.”