Vol. LXII, No. 18
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
POISED FOR GREATNESS: Princeton Day School senior star David Holland prepares to boom a serve in his win last Wednesday in the title match at first singles in the Mercer County Tournament. It was the third straight MCT first singles crown for Holland, who will be playing for the Duke University tennis team this fall.
David Holland felt like he was alone on an island last Wednesday as he played in the first singles championship match in the Mercer County Tournament.
The two-time defending champion from Princeton Day School realized that the crowd at the stadium court at Mercer County Park was rooting for him to lose to his opponent WW/P-S’ Leland Richardson.
To make matters worse, the senior star’s body was betraying him as leg cramps started bothering him in the second set.
Holland realized he was in a perilous situation. “I don’t know what it was; I felt it coming on near the end of the first set,” said Holland, who suffered through cramps in winning the 2006 MCT title match.
“Everyone was cheering for the other guy. It’s tough to play with the crowd this way; you’ve got 50 guys rooting against you.”
Displaying grit to go along with his impeccable strokes, Holland pulled out the second set as he won the match 6-1, 7-5.
“I didn’t run and I didn’t go for my serve because that’s when I locked up before,” said Holland. “There was a lot of pressure; everyone expects me to win.”
In preparing to deal with that pressure, Holland has fine-tuned his training.
“Over the past year I’ve been working at the Peak Athletic Center; I’ve gotten a little more power,” said Holland, who said has grown from 6’0, 150 pounds to 6’2, 160 in the last year. “My serve has gotten better.”
Holland was proud of the strength PDS showed in singles at the MCT as Neil Karandikar took the title at second singles and Alvin Song won at third singles to spark Panthers to a second-place finish in the team standings behind five-time champion WW/P-S.
“It’s pretty big,” said Holland. “I think it definitely says we can compete and beat anyone on the day.”
After PDS, Holland will be competing on the college level at Duke. “I narrowed it down to three,” said Holland, reflecting on his college decision.
“Vanderbilt was there. It came down to Duke and North Carolina. I chose Duke because it is a little more balanced; UNC plays a lot more; almost five hours a day. Duke is more balanced, with a little better academics.”
With the progress Holland has made at PDS, he believes he’s ready to make an impact at the next level. “I’ve gotten more consistent; I’ve kept it going into this year,” said Holland, who plans to play some national tournaments this summer.
“I wasn’t ranked that highly when I was a freshman. I think I was No. 90 in my class, I’ve got that up to 15. It’s a big jump.”
PDS head coach Rome Campbell is proud of the class Holland showed in fighting to the title last Wednesday.
“We were quite worried, he was coming down with the cramps,” recalled Campbell.
“He realized it even before the match started; he didn’t quite feel comfortable. We were quite nervous then we were very happy that he managed to hold on in that second set.”
In Campbell’s view, it was Holland’s mental strength that made the difference in the match.
“He made some adjustments in his game, he didn’t go for the big serve,” added Campbell. “He tried to avoid pushing off his quads; that’s where he was experiencing most of his cramping. He’s a smart player.”
Campbell has certainly enjoyed the experience of coaching Holland, who has led PDS to three straight Prep B titles in addition to his achievements at the MCT.
“He certainly brings a lot to our lineup, everybody is much more confident and assured in their positions,” said Campbell.
“Particularly for Neil and Alvin being sophomores; they highly respect Dave and his stature as a player, teammate, and a captain.”
The precocious Karandikar who rolled through the MCT without losing a game appears to be the heir to Holland’s throne.
“It was a tremendous performance by him coming off last year’s singles victory at No. 2 as a freshman,” said Campbell.
“He’s been very tough all season; he’s playing very strong tennis. He’s stronger and bigger. He has been to the weight room a lot in our new fitness center; it’s making a big difference in his game. He’s a 24-7 player, he plays everyday. He’s dedicated, determined, and he’s really stepped up.”
Third singles star Song has probably stepped up more than any Panther this spring.
“Alvin has certainly been the most improved player in our lineup,” asserted Campbell.
“He came from a doubles position; it was up and down all last year with various partners. This year, he has settled in; he’s a changed player. He takes a lot of cues and suggestions from coach [Will] Asch and myself. He’s open to more dialog; he’s matured quite a lot.”
While PDS’ first doubles team of Pat Murphy and Vinay Trivedi was eliminated in the second round of the MCT, Campbell believes the pair will mature into a force.
“We felt that first doubles had a good tournament; they went to three sets with WW/P-S,” said Campbell.
“They had a disappointing third set but we consider them one of the stronger teams in the tournament here even though they didn’t fare well.”
Campbell is confident his squad will fare well in its quest for a fourth straight Prep B title.
“We have the Prep B coming up; the boys are certainly playing very good tennis,” said Campbell, whose team plays at Pennington on April 30 and at Rutgers Prep on May 6.
“We have a lot of strong opponents who we will be facing before the preps. We look forward to those engagements.”
Holland, for his part, is looking forward to his final engagements with the team.
“It’s definitely different from freshman year, a lot of seniors didn’t like me taking their spot,” said Holland.
“I’m looked up to now, I guess. I like cheering the guys on, helping them at practice when I can. Winning a fourth is definitely the main thing. We didn’t win it the year before I came and then we won it my freshman year. To win all four years would be really nice.”
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