April 24, 2019

Featuring a Totally Revamped Singles Lineup, PHS Boys’ Tennis Working Hard to Improve

STEPPING UP: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Simon Hwang displays his serving form. Senior Hwang has stepped into the first singles role for PHS this spring. The Tigers, now 4-2, host Hamilton West on April 24 and play at Trenton Central on April 25 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on April 29 at Mercer County Park. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Losing two singles stars to graduation and another due to injury, the Princeton High boys’ tennis team has a new look at the top of its lineup.

“We are not looking at same strength in our singles lineup,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, whose Class of 2018 included standouts Noah Lilienthal and Kevin Yang with current senior Jerry Gu sidelined by injury.

“But the guys that are there want to be there. They are working hard, they are trying their best. We will take each match as it comes and work as hard as we can.”

After dropping matches to HoVal and WW/P-North to start the 2019 campaign, PHS has reeled off four straight wins, highlighted by a dramatic 3-2 victory over Hightstown on April 8.

“It is always tricky to open the season with two of the toughest competitors, especially since we were missing our second doubles team for those matches,” said Hibbert. “We had a real good battle with Hightstown. That match had four three-setters.”

Stepping into the first singles spot, senior Simon Hwang has shown that he is ready to battle against the best players in the area.

“Simon has got a solid all around game; he is a good player, he is very quick around the court,” said Hibbert, noting that Hwang played second singles as a sophomore and moved to doubles last spring due to the team’s strong singles lineup.

“He will really get the chance to shine this year. He will be challenged, you have some real standout players at first singles. It is a really tough county and there are some really hard matches at one. He is willing to work through it.”

Junior Justin Lyu has displayed toughness in making the jump from JV to second singles.

“He has worked on his game to get to second singles; he played some good challenge matches,” said Hibbert.

“He has been competitive in several of the matches. It takes a little while to settle into a new position, so we are hoping that after he gets a few varsity matches under his belt, he will start feeling a little more confident in that position.”

At third singles, senior Aryaman Babber is emerging as a stalwart for the Tigers this spring.

“Aryaman has been a steady presence for us at third singles so far this season; he moved up from the doubles lineup last year,” said Hibbert.

“He had a two-hour first set with the gentleman from Hopewell, so he showed he was willing to grind. He was able to provide important points for us against Hightstown and Allentown.”

At first doubles, junior Alex Hojelbane and senior Sameer Joshi have come together well.

“Alex has strong groundstrokes, he has good volleys, he has a really good overall game and has good tennis sense,” said Hibbert.

“Sameer has very solid ground strokes, he has a good serve, and has got good tennis sense. They did complement each other well. I watched them play a match together in preseason and I saw the potential for them to make a really strong duo. They have had some good matches.”

Sophomore twins, Dylan and Ethan Parker, give PHS a special chemistry at second doubles.

“They are very fast and a very athletic,” said Hibbert, noting that the twins also play for the PHS boys’ soccer team.

“One of the best things they bring is that they work together very well, the know each other’s games so well. They know what the other one is going to do. They have good communication, they can work through things and not get frustrated with each other. They are a good pairing; they are a righty-lefty duo, which is even better.”

Looking ahead to the Mercer County Tournament, which starts on April 29, Hibbert is confident that her players will keep grinding.

“It will be a challenge. We may not be first or second this year, but we are still towards the top,” said Hibbert, whose team tied for second in the 2018 MCT. “We are going to work as hard as we can to pick up as many points as we can and see what happens.”