Winning sectionals titles is nothing new for the Moorestown boys tennis program. On Monday, the Quakers won their 42nd sectional title in the past 46 years with a 4-1 win over Clearview in the South Jersey Group 3 final.
While winning a sectional title has been nearly an annual occurrence for more than 40 years for the program, it was a new experience for most of the players on the court yesterday.
The 2019 South Jersey Group 3 champion Quakers were a very young team. Out of the seven players on the court for Moorestown in the sectional final, none were seniors and only two players, juniors Peter Leese and Sahil Tilak, had been regulars in the Quakers’ lineup last year.
“I wasn’t on the lineup last year,” sophomore first doubles player Naveen Shah said. “As someone who is a part of this team, it really feels good to be added to the list of good Moorestown tennis players and to really understand what it means to have that name.”
“It feels good knowing that I’ll have three more years here,” freshman second doubles player Aidan Nemiroff added. “It’s nice to be part of this legacy of this team that’s won so many times.”
A team with fresh faces in the lineup will inevitably hit some bumps in the road, especially early on with the Quakers’ difficult schedule. In addition to hosting the Moorestown Classic in early April, the Quakers took part in tournaments at Delbarton and Westfield, where they encountered a slew of tough North Jersey opponents. When the Quakers returned from Westfield on April 20, their record sat below .500. However, their record didn’t accurately reflect how good Moorestown really was.
“When you go to North Jersey, you learn that there’s so much more talent within the state boundaries,” Shah said. So it’s humbling and helps you work harder.”
“We play a lot of tennis on the weekends,” Leese added. “That helps us out for the matches during the week.
Against South Jersey opponents, Moorestown lost two matches in the first week of the season to Lenape and St. Augustine. Since then, they have been perfect, with Monday’s win over Clearview being their 14th straight win against a South Jersey team.
The Quakers pulled out the sectional title even though their normal third singles player, Sean Kirk, was unable to play. Sophomore Deven Patel filled in for Kirk and while the team said they didn’t feel the pressure of being shorthanded, Tilak said there was plenty of pressure for another reason.
“There’s a long line of sectional champions,” Tilak said. “Peter and I have won the past two years. We wanted to keep that streak going so there was a little bit of pressure.”
Tilak helped turn Monday’s match in Moorestown’s favor. With the Quakers falling at third singles and dropping the first set at second doubles, Tilak won eight consecutive games in his second singles match against Clearview’s Ryan Weiss, turning a tight 4-3 score into a 6-3 6-0 win. Tilak’s win following a Moorestown win at first doubles to give the team a 2-1 lead. Leese would close out the match shortly after Tilak’s win with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Clearview’s Martin Lacsamana.
The Quakers will face a big challenge in the Group 3 state semifinals on Wednesday as they take on Central Jersey champion West Windsor-Plainsboro North, a team the Quakers lost to the first week of the season, 4-1.
“We’re definitely underdogs,” Nemiroff said. “I just think nobody really knows us, but we know a lot of good teams and we’re just ready to face them and play our best.”
The story of this year’s Moorestown team doesn’t end when the season concludes. The Quakers will have all of their regular players back in 2020 and the team feels their improvement from 2019 will carry over to next season.
“Even though we won today, we still have a lot of room to grow,” sophomore first doubles player Michael Hu. “Hopefully we can keep on improving more in the future.”