Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 22
 
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
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CENSATIONAL: Princeton High boys’ tennis star Kevin Cen prepares to rip a forehand in action earlier this season. Last Thursday, Cen pulled out a 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 win over Mike Roth of Millburn in second singles at the Group III state semifinals but it wasn’t enough as PHS dropped a 3-2 heartbreaker.

PHS Boys’ Tennis Never Stops Battling but Falls to Millburn in Group III Semis

Bill Alden

As they headed to Mercer County Park last Thursday for the state Group III Final Four, the Princeton High boys’ tennis team was hoping to spend a long day on the courts.

The Little Tigers were starting the day by facing Millburn in the semifinals at 11 a.m. with the winner slated to advance to the championship match at 3 p.m.

PHS ended up going through a marathon, but not for the reasons it had hoped.

First, the semis were delayed were delayed to 12:15 p.m. due to rain. Then about half an hour after the match got going, a cloudburst with a dash of hail necessitated a suspension of play.

After the players pitched in to squeegee off the courts, play resumed around 1:15. The Little Tigers quickly found themselves down 2-0 as first singles player Matt Ullmann succumbed in straight sets, as did the second doubles team of Aaron Wishnick and David Zheng.

The three remaining matches each headed into the third set as PHS fought for its playoff life, knowing that it had to win each flight to pull out a win.

With the clock hitting 3, second singles star Kevin Cen prevailed in his match while the senior doubles team of Ari Silver and Ben Weingarten pulled off another one of their patented comebacks as they won the third set of their match 7-5.

PHS third singles star David Zheng had seemed to be in the best shape in his match, jumping out to a 5-2 lead. But the fiery senior, who exhorted himself with shouts that could be heard courts away, ran out of gas as he fell 7-5 in the third set and PHS’ season ended with a disappointing 3-2 loss.

A subdued PHS head coach Sarah Heyman put the defeat in perspective as her players gathered on one of the courts to console themselves.

“It’s always a little bit disappointing when you come so close; you almost made it but you didn’t,” said Heyman, whose team finished with an 18-2 record

“But we were the sectional champs, which was exciting for them. We gave Millburn, which has been a classic powerhouse over the years, a run for their money.”

Heyman had confidence that her team would keep fighting even when it fell behind 2-0. “We knew that their No. 1 player was very good,” said Heyman.

“He was No. 4 in the state tournament and we knew Matt would have a tough match. Their second doubles played well today; they were aggressive and took control early. But we definitely knew we had a chance in the middle of the lineup.”

The middle of the PHS lineup just missed putting the Little Tigers over the top.

“First doubles has obviously been a strong position for us; they had the belief that they could win,” said Heyman.

“They definitely fought through a slow start and played a great two sets. They often do that. Both Kevin and Dave were right there. Kevin had a tough beginning and just had a great end of the match. He played fabulous tennis.”

While the season ended on a down note, Heyman praised her quartet of seniors, Ullmann, Silver, Weingarten, and Zheng, noting the great contribution they made to the program over their careers.

“They were definitely able to come together and play good matches toward the end there when they had to,” said Heyman.

“Against North, Matt played well and he was able to clinch that for us. We had some good efforts today; we really did. We just fell a little bit short. It’s disappointing for us but you can’t fault anyone because everyone gave their heart and everything they had.”

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