April 17, 2024

PHS Boys’ Tennis Produces Impressive 4-0 Start, Primed to Contend for 2nd Straight MCT Crown

FIRST TAKE: Princeton High boys’ tennis player Garrett Mathewson blasts a serve in a 2023 match. Sophomore Mathewson has moved up to first singles this spring and has helped PHS get off to a 4-0 start. In upcoming action, the Tigers are slated to host Allentown on April 18 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on April 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The Princeton High boys’ tennis team didn’t waste any time this spring making a statement.

Opening its season with a clash against perennial powerhouse and nemesis WW/P-South on April 5, PHS posted a 5-0 victory, winning four of the five matches in straight sets.

“We had a really great start to the season, it is always difficult to open up with one of your toughest rivals,” said PHS head coach Sarah Hibbert, whose team ended its 2023 season by falling 3-2 to the Pirates in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Group 3 final to end the season with a 14-2 record. “We were supposed to see them on opening day on April 1 and then we got rained out so it was still our opening match, but it was Friday rather than Monday. There were some close ones. There were tiebreaks in a couple of them and both doubles matches were close.”

Moving up to first singles this season, sophomore Garrett Mathewson has made an immediate impact in the top spot.

“It was great for him out of the gate to be able to play that well,” said Hibbert, referring to Mathewson’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Shritan Gopu of WW/P-S in the opener.

“Garrett came in the varsity singles lineup as a freshman, he had some really great matches for us. He worked hard over the offseason and improved his game. He has added pace and consistency on his serve. His footwork, his overall mindset, and confidence are a bit better with a year of varsity experience under his belt and a year more of maturity. He is a confident, solid all-around player.”

PHS boasts a very solid player at second singles in senior Melvin Huang.

“Melvin has been rock in our lineup for four years; he came in as a freshman at third singles and worked his way up,” said Hibbert, whose team defeated Trenton Central 5-0 last Monday to improve to 4-0. “He played behind Jonathan [Guo] the last couple of years. He is a very steady position for us. He is one of the hardest workers around. He has increased his endurance, his strength, and power on shots.”

Sophomore Andrew Kuo worked his way into the third singles spot after playing doubles last spring.

“Andrew is a solid player, he was very close to the singles lineup last year with his consistency on his groundstrokes,” said Hibbert. “I think his mindset is better this year. He has improved his serve as well. He probably is a better singles player. He fit into the doubles lineup last year because he had such solid pieces to his game.”

The pair of sophomore Aashil Patel and senior Aman Kapur have proven to be a good fit at first doubles.

“Aashil was our alternate last year, he was so close to our lineup and definitely did play a bunch of matches for us,” said Hibbert. “He was right there, so I am pleased that he is able to get in again. He has worked really hard on his game too. He has good pace and volleys. Aman is incredibly steady. You think you hit a winner on him four times and the ball just keeps coming back. So far, they have been working well together.”

At second doubles, junior Shaan Zaveri, freshman Tacto Yamada, and freshman Emil Kapur (Aman’s younger brother) are in the mix at second doubles with Zaveri and Yamada having seen action at the spot so far.

“Tacto comes in with very good doubles skills, he is a really solid volleyer, he has a nice serve and he has good doubles know-how,” said Hibbert. “Shaan has the year of experience last year, so we had them start off the season. Emil had some really good matches in preseason. Because the preseason got so interrupted by rain and we had spring break and we haven’t had all of the time that we wanted to set things, those three will probably all see time in the lineup.”

With PHS having won the Mercer County Tournament team last year for the first time since 2003, Hibbert is cautiously optimistic that her squad can contend for the title again as the county tourney starts next Monday at the Mercer County Park Tennis Center.

“It really depends on the luck of the draw — you can get drawn against one of the best teams early on and may not be quite ready yet or somebody has a slightly off day,” said Hibbert, whose team is slated to host Allentown on April 18 in its final tune-up before the MCT. “Sometimes draws are favorable, sometimes they are not. We will certainly hope to have some people playing on the second day. We were finally able to break through last year. We are hoping to have similar success this year in the county but there a lot of good players. We take it day by day, match by match, and just hope for the best.”