Fifteen years of frustration came to an end for Mountain Lakes boys tennis coach Ginny O’Donnell and the Lakers this past week when the small school power handed 12-time defending Morris County Tournament champion Delbarton a 3-2 defeat in match play.
Now the Lakers hope to carry the momentum of the inspirational win into next weekend’s county tournament.
“It’s the first time we’ve beaten Delbarton since I’ve been coaching and the kids were thrilled with the win,” O’Donnell said. “They are playing really well as a group since the Bryan Bennett Tournament and I think they realize now that they can play with the big teams and that they can compete with anyone.”
Both Mountain Lakes and Delbarton were without the services of a key singles player in the match. Delbarton’s George Easley, the defending MCT second singles champion, missed the match due to a recurring shoulder injury while the Lakers were without the services of junior Frankie Yi at third singles.
Mountain Lakes swept the doubles with brothers Oliver and Jackson Whang winning in straight sets at first doubles to improve to 7-2 on the season and Eric Chow and Peter Haessig scoring their biggest victory of the year with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Delbarton’s Robert Steer and Kasen Furtado.
“Our doubles really stepped up and did the job,” O’Donnell said. “Then it was all up to Josh.”
With Delbarton winning at first (Mike Boyle) and third (Cameron Ketchum) singles, the match came down to third singles, where Mountain Lakes’ senior captain Josh Kirschenbaum rallied for a thrilling 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (9-7) win over Parker Pridgen to earn the decisive point. Kirschenbaum also had a big Bryan Bennett Tournament, where he posted a straight-set win over Watchung Hills’ highly-regarded Tristan Sun.
“Josh has been tremendous for us all season,” O’Donnell said. “He’s not flashy but he knows how to win and has gotten better with each match.”
The upset victory over the Green Wave gives Mountain Lakes confidence heading into the weekend’s MCT, where they along with the rest of the field will attempt to end Delbarton’s 12-year championship run.
“The counties will be tough, especially for our less experienced players,” said O’Donnell. “We have to be realistic but there’s no doubt that the win over Delbarton certainly gives us a lot of confidence.”
The Mountain Lakes lineup is filled out by sophomore Theo Lorand at first singles, who made the jump from first doubles as year ago and has more than held his own against top competition early in the season.
“All we can do is play the best tennis we can and see what happens. I know this group will give it everything they have against some very good competition.”
Area coaches will gather tomorrow night for the Morris County Tournament seeding meeting. This year’s tournament is slated for April 26-27 at the County College of Morris and Brundage Park in Randolph with Delbarton attempting to capture its 13th consecutive team championship.
The Green Wave’s Boyle is the defending first singles champion and should earn the top seed with Morristown-Beard’s Peter Daly likely to earn the No. 2 seed. Look for a rematch of last year’s final between the two with Daly looking to earn a spot in the title match for the third consecutive year.
A highly anticipated second singles final between Mountain Lakes’ Kirschenbaum and Delbarton’s Easley, who should earn the top two seeds, would likely be one of the top matches of the tournament if it comes to fruition. Easley defeated Kirschenbaum in last year’s MCT semifinals but the two have not played this season due Easley missing time due to injury.
Look for the rest of the seeds at third singles and at both doubles positions to be announced later this week.
Donate used racquets
Kids Serving Kids is a worldwide program created and run by a group of current and former high school players in South Florida. It is a community service organization that collects and recycles tennis rackets for under-served youth.
Delbarton junior Parker Pridgen is the founder of the New Jersey Chapter, which offers children of all ages a chance to learn and enjoy the game of tennis.
More information about the program is available at http://www.KidsServingKids.com