May 31, 2017

Prep B Title Streak Ends for PDS Boys’ Tennis As It Places Close 2nd to Montclair Kimberley

BREAKING POINT: Princeton Day School boys’ tennis player Lex Decker blasts a serve in a match this spring. Last Wednesday, junior star Decker lost 6-3, 6-0 to Lucas Flotta of Pennington in the first singles final at the state Prep B tournament. The Panthers, who had won four straight Prep B team titles, saw that streak broken as they finished second to Montclair Kimberley. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Heading into the championship round of the state Prep B tournament, the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team was on track to win its fifth straight team title at the competition.

PDS was first in the team standings as the action started last Wednesday at Wardlaw-Hartridge, with Panthers having advanced to the finals in four of the five flights.

But PDS head coach Will Asch knew that his squad wasn’t in for a cakewalk.

“I don’t think we were the favorites in any match,” said Asch. “We certainly felt that there was no match that we played that was not winnable. We were ahead; I certainly thought we had a better than 50 percent chance of winning going into the day.”

As it turned out, PDS lost all four of its matches, opening the door for Montclair Kimberley, which overtook the Panthers to win the title by one point, 10-9.

“We did have some issues, our best doubles player, Noah Liao, had a foot injury and he was out at second doubles,” said Asch.

“That really hurt us because they were very reliable for us in getting points this year.”

With freshman Ari Nagelberg filling in admirably for Liao alongside senior Leo Nye, the pair put up a good fight before falling in three sets to Rohan Israni and Milan Seeve of MKA, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

“Ari is very good and he is a great kid, he stepped up many times during the season and got us some nice wins but it is not the same thing in the Prep B,” said Asch.

“Where the whole tournament is on the line, it is a lot to ask.”

Another PDS freshman, Chris Delaney, also extended his match at second singles to three sets but he ultimately fell to Mack Nagpal of Morristown-Beard 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

“The boy he lost to played first singles last year for Mo- Beard,” said Asch.

“It didn’t feel good to have him play the No. 1 who really gave Scott Altmeyer [the first singles player for PDS in 2016] a good match. Scott had to work really hard to get that match last year and that was at first singles.”

Junior star Lex Decker battled hard at first singles this year but fell 6-3, 6-0 to Lucas Flotta of Pennington.

“Lex has improved incredibly since freshman year but some days you have it and some days you don’t,” said Asch.

“Lex played very well, he competed very well; he just wasn’t sharp enough. With this kid, you have to play really great tennis to beat him and Lex played well but not well enough.”

In the third singles final, junior Vivek Sharma played some good tennis but came up short as Will Michaels of Montclair Kimberley prevailed 6-1, 6-2.

“Vivek made a lot of
improvement this year and this is his first year playing singles,” added Asch.

“He has got a lot of potential but he needs to have a little more confidence to win in a situation like that.”

Asch is hoping that his returning players will deal with the situation of falling just short of a title by putting their noses to the grindstone.

“They need to learn that championships are hard to come by; we have had an incredible run but it takes a little luck and it takes a lot of hard work,” said Asch.

“When you are in a competition like this tennis tournament, there is no grade inflation. It is what it is and it is you against the other person. There is nobody there to help you, it is the kids by themselves. Everybody wants to win and it is hard to win against good players. It can be just a few points between winning and losing. You have got to work hard so you get those few extra points that can make the difference.”