Jack Lavin leads Lenape boys tennis to second consecutive sectional title

Lavin won the championship-clinching match when he defeated Cherry Hill East’s Adam Yu in three sets last Monday.

Just before 3 p.m. last Monday, there was no telling who would win the South Jersey Group IV boys tennis championship.

At that time, Lenape High School and Cherry Hill High School East were tied, 2–2, with only the first singles match still going. The first singles players, senior Jack Lavin for Lenape and junior Adam Yu for Cherry Hill East, were taking a short break before going to a third and deciding set. At the time, Yu appeared to have the momentum after winning the second set, 6–3.

However, Lavin, Lenape’s first singles player for the past four years, was confident he would find a way to win.

“In the middle of the second set, my coach told me it was the deciding match,” he said. “I was pretty confident, even though I was down in the second set.”

Lavin would prevail, earning three break points in the final set to win it, 6–3, and clinch the South Jersey Group IV title for Lenape. The championship was the Indians’ second in a row.

Lenape High School’s first singles player Jack Lavin sprints toward the ball

It was not a surprise to see the match go down to the wire. The two teams dominated for most of the year, splitting their regular season series, 1–1. Lenape lost only one other match the entire season, falling to South Jersey Group III powerhouse Moorestown in early April.

The championship was also a rematch of last season’s South Jersey Group IV title match. Lenape won last year’s championship, 3–2.

“This year and last year, we’ve always battled with this team,” senior Jeremy Shpigel said. “All the positions are really well matched and there’s also a lot of heart in both teams.”

There were a lot of similarities between this year’s championship and last year’s. The match came down to the wire both years, with Lenape finishing on top. The match was played indoors, with the two teams doing battle at Moorestown Tennis Club. Lenape was also the lower seed both years. Despite being the defending champions, the Indians were the №2 seed in this year’s tournament, while Cherry Hill East was seeded №1.

The Indians entered last Monday’s match with a lot of confidence. Lavin said last year’s experience of winning a tight sectional final played a big role in this year’s success.

Lenape High School’s third singles player Jimmy Li smashes a forehand

“Nobody thought we were going to win,” senior Marc Ignarri said. Besides the seven guys on this court and those two coaches over here, nobody thought we could win.”

Lavin said the team entered last week with a lot of confidence, having beaten Cherry Hill East earlier in May.

“Our focus was really just to stay loose,” he said. “Playing tight is not going to help you win the match. We’ve been in it so many times, we knew we just had to keep it close the whole time.”

The match featured plenty of ups and downs. Cherry Hill East suffered a big loss early when first doubles player Jacob Singer went down with an injury, forcing himself and his partner, Elan Boyarsky, to retire from their match and giving Lenape its first point. The Indians were up 2–0 early, but Cherry Hill East got wins from Kevin Hu at second singles and Arnav Gupta and Max Sobel at second doubles, to tie the score at two, leaving the championship to be decided at first singles.

Lavin was down early in the first set, 2–1, but found a second wind late. He would win five of the last six games to win the title for the Indians.

“In three sets, I really trust my legs and that I’ll be able to go as long as possible as long as I need,” he said.

As Lenape’s top player, Lavin has played on big stages before and will wrap up his high school career in early June as one of the top seeds in the NJSIAA state singles tournament.

However, none of his past victories will top last Monday’s grueling, championship-clinching win.

“This is probably my favorite match now,” Lavin said. “This is one I’ll remember for sure.”