EDISON – Last season the J.P. Stevens boys tennis team had to battle back in order to tie with South Brunswick for the Greater Middlesex County title. This season was a different story, as J.P. Stevens flipped the page and claimed sole possession of the GMC trophy.
J.P. Stevens has gained a reputation throughout the state as being one of the most competitive teams in New Jersey. Each year the Hawks are at the top of a tough GMC, with this year’s win making it a three-peat for J.P. Stevens.
“Our reputation seems to be key,” J.P. Stevens coach Ellen Pisano said. “The top schools in the state usually have that reputation. I think the word gets out and you work hard to be on the J.P. Stevens tennis team. I have the top of the class on my team. It’s an academic sport and they are very smart, which allows them to make adjustments.”
J.P. Stevens entered Saturday’s action with a slim lead over South Brunswick. The Viking were breathing heavily down the Hawks necks, but J.P. Stevens’ two doubles teams were able to slam home their victory.
Alex Telson and Gouttham Chandrasekar defeated South Brunswick in a first doubles matchup to pick up critical points for the Hawks. Brian Ho and Arjun Krishnan completed the doubles sweep by once again beating South Brunswick.
Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the morning was between Vishal Walia and Vijay Chockalingam. J.P. Stevens already knew they were taking home the first place trophy at that point, but the two athletes battled back-and-forth until the final point. The match took three sets, with Walia finally taking charge and winning.
Walia is no stranger to winning a GMC medal. His freshman year he came in first place in the second doubles bracket. Walia also won the third singles finals last season. This year Walia had a more difficult time, but he was able to come through in the clutch and grab a much needed point when needed.
“He slips and a little bit and he thinks about things, but then all of a sudden you say some cues to him and he turns it around,” Pisano said. “He was down a little in the second set, but I wasn’t worried about him.”
The Hawks are now undefeated, but they still have a bucket list of achievements they would like to check off for the 2015 campaign. J.P. Stevens cannot afford to slip up this week; they have Livingston, South Brunswick and East Brunswick on the schedule. The strong competition will keep them on their toes and prepare them for the postseason.
“The state tournament is coming up and we have not gotten a sectional title in a long time, so that’s another goal we are looking forward to,” Pisano said. “There are so many milestones and little records we talk about all the time. That keeps them motivated.”
Marchalik wins first singles
Maverick Lin and Josh Marchalik are not unfamiliar foes. Lin and Marchalik have competed against each other in the past and even practice together during the offseason. This has led to the two players knowing the opposition’s every move.
Saturday’s first singles matchup was bound to be a close affair, with the winner having to bring their best tennis. East Brunswick’s Marchalik showed he had the upper hand throughout a majority of the morning, eventually winning the title (6-3, 6-3).
“My freshman year, when Maverick was a sophomore, I had a close match with him,” Marchalik said. “We practice together a lot and we know each other’s strength and weaknesses. It just ended up being who competed better today.”
Marchalik, who entered the final game with a perfect record on the season, continued his dominance with his second straight GMC championship.
Maverick, who is attending Cornell next season, was battling with cramps throughout the match. The nagging injury proved to be a deciding factor, as Lin did not display his usual authority on the court.
“I think we were both tired and had a lot of tough points,” Marchalik. “I know it was kind of a momentum break for me. I just had to stretch and stay loose. I was able to get it back.”
Marchalik did not feel like he played his best tennis during the previous, but made it his main mission to play hard from the opening serve on Saturday. The junior did not have any let downs and was able to grasp the victory.
“I had some shaky matches this year and I haven’t played my best tennis this tournament,” Marchalik said. “I just know that as long as I am competing and playing my hardest, it will come together.”