The top-seeded Holmdel girls tennis team played host to No. 4 Toms River North on Monday afternoon with more than a trip to the Shore Conference Tournament final on the line, but also a fight for county supremacy.
The Mariners entered the match one day removed from sending a representative to all five finals matches and capturing their 10th Ocean County Tournament title while scoring a total of 33 team points to second-place Toms River South’s 25. Meanwhile, the Hornets earned their first Monmouth County Tournament crown in three seasons only eight days prior to this clash.
The SCT semifinal match would end in favor of Holmdel by a score of 4-1.
With so much talent up front in all three singles positions for both teams, it can be easy to overlook the production of their doubles pairings, but it was the play of the Hornets’ Lauren Byrket, Tiffany Huang, Nandini Krishnaswamy and Sarah Yan that put pressure on early.
“I think it’s really important to get out there and try to set the mood early for the rest of the team,” Byrket said. “If we’re (Byrket and Huang) successful early, it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the team and they can relax.”
Huang and Byrket made quick work of their match by taking it in straight sets 6-0, 6-0, while Krishnaswamy and Yan followed suit with a clean 6-2, 6-0 win of their own, placing the Hornets up 2-0 before a singles match could reach a conclusion.
“Lauren and Tiffany have been solid all year,” said Hornets 10-year coach Chuck Chelednik, “and Lauren has been a rock for us at doubles for three seasons now.
“Our doubles teams are very good and wind up earning a lot of easy wins along the way. They’re playing with a lot of confidence and to continue their success will be a matter of keeping them fresh and motivated.”
Lucy Wang’s third singles victory over talented Toms River North player Jordan Vaserkovy by a score of 6-4, 6-4 gave Holmdel a 3-0 lead to clinch the match as well as a coveted trip back to the SCT final.
“This was a tough match,” Chelednik said, “and our singles players have to perform better as we move along, not just in this tournament’s finals, but in states as well. We have to build up confidence there. But I can’t complain with the results so far.”
The Hornets’ Alecia Lai picked up a fourth team point for Holmdel with a lengthy 6-4, 6-1 second-singles victory. Not to be outdone in match length was the first singles meeting of Katie McKay and the Mariners’ Kendall Kauffman, who picked up the lone point for Toms River North by scores of 6-3 and 7-6.
Holmdel will take on the winner of the Red Bank Catholic-St. John Vianney semifinal match 3 p.m. today at Brookdale Community College.