The Montville boys’ tennis team was noticeably absent from the annual Bryan Bennett Memorial Tournament at Delbarton two weekends ago. At this weekend’s Morris County Tournament, the Mustangs will have an opportunity to prove that they indeed belong among the top teams in the county and the state.
With eight wins in its first 10 matches, Montville appears to be the team in line to best challenge 11-time defending champion Delbarton for the MCT team title next weekend at the County College of Morris. The Mustangs dropped a tight 3-2 decision to the Green Wave in match play earlier this spring, but have also notched victories over the likes of Chatham and Blair while establishing themselves as the top contender for the MCT title.
“There’s no doubt the kids are excited about the counties,” Montville head coach Kenny Sachs said. “We know that this could be our best opportunity in a long time to win a team championship and that’s what we’re working toward.”
Montville, which finished second to Delbarton at last year’s MCT, boasts a senior-laden lineup that also features a pair of freshmen in the doubles mix.
Junior Dan Peski, who played at second singles a year ago, has assumed the top singles spot while senior Andrew Kim has moved from first to second. Both players provide the Mustangs with stability at the top of the lineup.
The wild card in this year’s lineup is senior Matt Goldstein, who returns to the court at third singles after missing all of last season due to a wrist injury. His leadership and singles experience has been a key ingredient in the Mustangs’ early-season success.
“Matt has been an inspiration since returning,” Sachs said. “He’s a vocal leader who is thrilled to be back on the court and has provided the lift we needed.”
While the singles lineup has plenty of experience, the Mustangs’ doubles teams combine senior leadership with an injection of youth. Three-year varsity starter Alec Vigil and freshman Daniel Kim, Andrew’s younger brother, have teamed at first doubles to fashion an 8-2 record. Senior co-captain Dan Margulis and freshman Rahul Paranjape have also blended well as a formidable second doubles pairing.
“Of all five positions, I’ve been most pleased with the progress we’ve made at doubles,” Sachs said. “They’re playing with confidence and cohesion and are really starting to believe in themselves.”
After losing his first match of the season to Delbarton’s Mike Boyle on Friday, Morristown-Beard’s Peter Daly will likely earn the second seed at first singles behind Boyle for next weekend’s Morris County Tournament.
The junior, who held the same No. 2 seed last spring when he advanced to the final before losing to Delbarton’s Chase Savage, is just fine with that.
“I feel good playing as the underdog, that way I don’t put too much pressure on myself,” Daly said. “My match with Mike (Boyle) was tight and I’m pretty confident that I can play with him. But there are also a lot of other good players in the draw. I definitely want to take the title this year.”
The seeding meeting for this weekend’s Morris County Tournament will take place Tuesday night with Delbarton’s Mike Boyle expected to earn the top seed at first singles.
The Green Wave also enters as the slight favorite to win their 12th consecutive team title with Montville, Mountain Lakes, Chatham, and Mendham expected to challenge.
The two-day tournament gets under way at the County College of Morris and Brundage Park in Randolph on Saturday with preliminary-round action and play continuing through the quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals will be held on Sunday at CCM.