PDS Boys’ Tennis Rolls to 2nd Straight Prep B Crown, Advancing to the Finals in All 5 Flights of the Tourney
TROPHY PRESENTATION: Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team show off the silverware they earned for winning the Prep B state title last week. PDS dominated the opening weekend of the competition, advancing to the finals in all five flights, clinching the team title before even playing the championship round. The Panthers earned individual titles in three flights as Heyang Li came through at first singles while Josh Chu won at second singles and the first doubles pair of Oliver Silverio and Steven Li prevailed in their final. In upcoming action, PDS will be competing in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public, South Jersey tourney where they are seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Moorestown Friends in a first round match on May 26.
By Bill Alden
There wasn’t much drama but a lot of excitement for the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team as it rolled to the Prep B state title last week.
PDS dominated the opening weekend of the competition, advancing to the finals in all five flights, clinching the team title before even playing the championship round.
Last Wednesday at Wardlaw-Hartridge, the Panthers earned individual titles in three flights as Heyang Li was victorious at first singles while Josh Chu won at second singles and the first doubles pair of Oliver Silverio and Steven Li prevailed in their final.
The Panthers piled up 13 points in winning the title with Montclair Kimberley Academy scoring nine in placing second.
“We are really proud of the guys; we always want to be pushing ourselves to be the best tennis players and best sportsmen that we can be,” said PDS head coach Michael Augsberger, reflecting on the title which was the second straight Prep B crown for the program. “It is great to have the acknowledgment of that and to able to celebrate it. This is a very senior laden team, we are glad that we can send them off in a fitting fashion.”
The Panthers, though, didn’t celebrate before the final round.
“We had an inkling that we had it sewed it up but we weren’t sure because there were some other matches out there,” said Augsberger. “We wanted to get the official word from tournament director on a couple of things, so we didn’t actually celebrate on Saturday.”
In reflecting on his squad’s dominant start at the Prep B competition, Augsberger attributed it to several factors.
“Part of it comes down the seeding — we benefited from having a good season so far and some of the decisions that were made worked for us,” said Augsberger. “Then you have to beat who is put in front of you.”
Heading into the finals, the PDS players had the luxury of not having to stress over the team standings.
“It is a rarity where you get to play with no pressure at all,” said Augsberger. “The guys had their individual pressure, they wanted to win their titles. But for the team they didn’t have to worry so they played more freely.”
Sophomore Li, competing in his first high school campaign, played very well in the final, posting a 6-0, 6-0 win over Josh Green of Dwight Englewood.
“His mindset is very confident and very laid back, he never seems to get worried,” said Augsberger of Li, who previously won the first singles title at the Mercer County Tournament. “He has been in situations where he hasn’t been playing his optimal. It is interesting to see him them and how does he re-set himself. You want to go out there and remind him you are still in control if you play your game, you are going to perform well. For him, it was pretty business-like.”
Senior standout Chu took care of business at second singles, defeating Jonah Aliwalas of Rutgers Prep, 6-3, 6-2.
“I really wanted it for him to be able to collect some silverware after such a career,” said Augsberger. “Being thrust into first singles due to injury his sophomore year, Josh was playing some great guys. He was battling with them, he wins one here and then has tight losses and takes his lumps. To be able to play two this year and to have that spot locked up is really good for his confidence. He deserves a championship. Coming into the tournament we knew that he was going to be able to bash the ball. Jonah kept it close early in both sets but Josh was able to figure it out to do what he needed to do.”
At first doubles, the pair of Oliver Silverio and junior Steven Li showed some grit in pulling out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over Sujan Munver and Kyle Lee of Dwight-Englewood.
“Silverio is such a gentleman, he is someone the other guys admire a lot,” said Augsberger. “When they lost that first set to Dwight Englewood, it was time for Oliver to be the leader. He has always been paired with older guys whose turn it was to finally win and celebrate their career. This time it was his turn to coach along a younger player. They are both so quiet, they really needed to amp up the energy. Oliver was the one that did that this time, he took charge of that match.”
While senior Wu fell in straight sets to Luis Crespo of MKA and the second doubles pair of senior Mohammad and junior Peng dropped a three-setter to Alejandro Crespo and Santos Garner of MKA, Augsberger believes that the players gained some valuable experience with the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public tourney on the horizon.
“Wu had the biggest challenge of the day, of all the finalists that we had to play, Crespo was probably the biggest challenge,” said Augsberger. “He is an
incredible baseline player, we were going through solution after solution. Wu has matured so much, he was thinking positively the entire match. He was trying to work out the solutions. Mo and Peng were able to pull out that first set tiebreaker, it was the closest they got because MKA took control of the second and third sets. We tried adjustments. I am just really proud of where they finished.”
With PDS starting action this week in the Non-Public, South Jersey tourney where they are seeded fourth and will host 13th-seeded Moorestown Friends in a first round match on May 26, Augsberger believes the squad can build on its Prep B success.
“You want to peak at the right time, it is all about the tournaments for us,” said Augsberger. “Now that we have the preps, this is the kind of thing where you can get that momentum and roll because the states are so close to it.”