When the top seeds for next weekend’s Morris County Tournament are announced at Tuesday night’s coaches meeting, the chances are pretty good that defending champion Delbarton, which has claimed the last 13 MCT team titles, won’t hear its name called as often as it’s accustomed to. Does that mean that there will be a new sheriff in town when the two-day event concludes on Sunday at the County College of Morris?
If the Bryant Bennett Memorial Invitational was a foreshadowing of things to come, the smart money will be on Randolph, which has never won a county championship. The Rams easily handled the Green Wave 4-1 in the consolation round of the tournament before pushing Holmdel to the limit in dropping a 3-2 decision in the consolation final. Randolph has won eight of its first 10 matches (only other loss was to state power Dwight-Engelwood) and appears destined to bring home its first MCT boys tennis title.
“I like it when we are not the bulls eye,” said Randolph coach Don Fritch, whose team finished second to Delbarton at last year’s MCT. “The county has lots of teams that can make a run this year. I’m just glad we’re one of those teams. Delbarton is the reigning champions and in my eyes, still the team to beat.”
Defending MCT first singles champion Mitchel Sanders is on course to repeat the feat as the senior has been at the top of his game for the majority of the season. Junior Justin Gold has been one of the top second singles players in the state as well, and the pair give the Rams a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup. Both players were expected to earn MCT top seeds at their respective flights.
“Playing in the Bryan Bennett Tournament was great preparation for counties and we’re really looking forward to it,” Sanders said.
Of course, because the MCT is a flight tournament, Delbarton cannot be counted out of the mix. In years past, the Green Wave has used its overall depth at all five positions to earn points in the early rounds and compile what they needed to come away as team champions. Will that be their recipe for success once again?
“Our approach is always the same,” Delbarton coach John Thompson said. “We focus on each match and don’t let others define our success or failure. There are many teams and many individual players who will be tough this year. It will be a very competitive tournament. Besides Randolph, I think Mendham will also be right in the thick of it as well.”
Senior Parker Pridgen has emerged this spring as the leader of the Green Wave at first singles along with sophomore Robert Steer at second and junior Cameron Ketchum at third. The real test will come at doubles, where the Green Wave roll out two freshmen and a pair of sophomores.
“Our lack of experience will be a factor,” Thompson said. “But our guys are getting better with each practice and each match. We will see next weekend how far we have actually come as a team.”
Mendham has also played some top competition already this season and participated in the Lancer Showdown at Livingston over the weekend. The Minutemen, led by Andrew Brown at first singles, fell to host Livingston in the first round but was able to pull out a 3-2 victory in the consolation round over Watchung Hills thanks to a doubles sweep.
The Morris County Tournament will be held on Saturday with preliminary-round action and continue on Sunday at the County College of Morris in Randolph.