The Montclair High School and Montclair Kimberley Academy men’s tennis teams were seeking to be crowned state champions on the same day.
But both teams had tough battles, facing two of the top five teams in the state.
Their plans to win the state championships were tight and slim, but the teams hoped they could pull it off in the end.
Instead, the Mounties and Cougars, who were each second seed in their sections, couldn’t keep up with their counterparts, each the first seed.
The two locals lost 4-1, with Montclair falling to Bergen Tech and Montclair Kimberley losing to Newark Academy on Tuesday, May 31, in the North 1 and State 4 Group 4 Section Title matches respectively. non public from north B. Montclair Kimberley’s record slipped to 14-6 this season, while Montclair fell to 14-8.
Despite the loss, Montclair head coach Guy Rabner couldn’t have been happier to advance to the section finals and secure a title. “I’m glad we made it this far,” Rabner said. “They fought hard and played their best. I’m proud of them.”
Montclair Kimberley had the toughest opponent, Newark Academy, considered the best team in the state. And the team that beat Montclair, Bergen Tech, suffered their only loss to Newark Academy.
It was the second straight season the Mounties dropped out of the North 1 Group 4 State Section Finals at Bergen Tech. Last year, they lost by the same score, 4-1.
The Montclair team had a rocky start to the first series of games across the board, and it was uphill from there.
The Mounties lost the first set of five games a few games, and the pressure was on to make up for it after the Heat moved the game inside the Franklin Lakes Racquet Club. “They’re a really good team, and to come close to that, it’s deflating,” Rabner said of the first set. “Mentally, it was difficult to pass.”
Rabner had a track record to defeat the Knights, with hopes of wins in third singles and second doubles, combined with another victory at another level for the three wins needed to win the state title.
The second double went ahead, with senior Jaden Ruderman and junior Rainen Solomon continuing to clinch for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win. “They played really well together,” Rabner said.
But in third singles, elder Avery Bronner, who has been the most reliable Mountie this season, lost a 6-4, 6-2 decision to Bergen Tech’s Udbhav Devarakonda.
And Montclair couldn’t get a few wins on the other levels.
Rabner added that some of Montclair’s players were coming out of injury and not at 100%.
For Montclair Kimberley, junior Lukas Selassie was the lone winner, winning the third singles with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 win over Newark Academy’s Eddie Ho.
Like Montclair, the Cougars — with the exception of Selassie — got off to a slow start, and it was an uphill battle thereafter.
MKA had received a bye in the first two rounds before defeating third-seeded Morristown Beard 4-1 at home on May 26.
Freshmen Sean Wang and Selassie picked up straight-set wins in the second and third singles respectively over Morristown Beard.
Additionally, both doubles teams won in straight sets against Morristown-Beard. Senior Dhruv Jetley and junior Aiden Szilagyi, along with senior Brandon Yeu and second Christopher Hernandez, had easy times in the first and second teams, respectively.
Going into the game against Bergen Tech, the Mounties had come through the first two rounds with back-to-back 5-0 wins over Memorial and Ridgewood on May 25 and 26 in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.
Against Ridgewood, all three singles won in straight sets, while both doubles teams – Ruderman-Solomon as well as seniors Leon Wang and Noah Fishman – had to go in straight sets to win.
Once the state team tournament is over, some of the individuals will be part of the individual state tournament that begins June 11. Rabner said singles runner-up Tylan Ozkuzey and the doubles team of Wang and Nolan Ogden will be part of the state meet.