First-doubles tandem seals deal for Highland Park

First-doubles tandem seals deal for Highland Park

Video

First-doubles tandem seals deal for Highland Park

By

EDISON

While Highland Park High School’s Maverick Lin looked every bit the part of the state’s top-ranked tennis player, closing out his match without dropping a game, it was his first-doubles teammates who clinched the sectional final.

The win by seniors Jacob Choi and Yang Xu brought the score to 3-0, with the third-singles and second-doubles matches still in contention. Whatever the outcome of the remaining matches, Highland Park (18-3) had already assured itself of a victory over Shore (12-9).

Top-seeded Highland Park ended up defeating sixth-seeded Shore 3-2 to capture the NJSIAA Central Group I title at Thomas Edison Park on Monday, booking a third straight ticket to Wednesday’s Group I semifinals at Mercer County Park.

“It was great,” said Rutgers University-bound Choi, who played varsity tennis all four years of high school. “I remember us losing in the state final last year (to New Providence) and now we have a chance to gain it back.”

His first-doubles partner echoed the sentiment, reveling in the decisive 6-1, 6-0 victory over Shore’s Evan Coffey and Mason Muh.

“It’s good to have another chance to claim the state title,” Xu said. “It feels great to know that we were able to pull through for the team. We have a lot of freshman this year, so it will motivate them to work harder, and they’ll know what they have to defend next year.”

Lin, a senior, was the first player off the court after his confident 6-0, 6-0 victory over Shore’s Matt Resnikoff.

“I just want the best for my team,” said Lin, who is unbeaten this season at first singles with an individual record of 18-0. “I want to help the team out in any way possible. I just treated this final as a normal match – he’s just another opponent. I was kind of in the zone and serving well.”

Lin set the tone of the match by breaking Resnikoff’s serve in the opening game, hitting clean winners and mixing up his shots. Though Resnikoff tried at times to fight back, Lin had an answer for his efforts in both sets.

“I’m excited, I guess,” said Lin on drawing the No. 1 ranking in the state individual tournament. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking at the same time.”

At second singles, Highland Park senior Thulani Hove had an equally dominant match, trumping Alex Holderness 6-0, 6-0. Hove was happy to reach the state team showdown a third time to wrap up his high school career. In 2011 when Highland Park captured the state championship, Hove headed the lineup.

“My shots were going in – serves were going in,” noted Hove, whose season record improved to 22-1. “I felt good. Alex is a big hitter, and if he’s a little more consistent, he’d be a better player. I’m confident that we’re going to have a good run this year.”

At third singles, Highland Park freshman Leo Goldman fell to Derek Moore 6-2, 6-2. And the Owls’ second-doubles team of junior Joon Ko and senior Boning Zhao also lost 6-2, 7-5 to Austin Carkhuff and Tom Walters.

In his second year as head coach of the Highland Park boys tennis squad, Tim Stark was excited to be heading back to the the state team tournament after defeating Metuchen 4-1 in the semifinal round.

“It’s a great accomplishment, especially winning the section for a third year in a row,” Stark said. “We’re looking forward to competing for the group title on Wednesday. I was very proud of our first-doubles team. They’re seniors, and they did a good job closing out the win for us.”

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports