For Cherry Hill boys tennis coach Greg deWolf, it’s no coincidence that the program has won three straight South Jersey Group 4 sectional titles since Brett Schuster entered the program as a freshman during the 2018-’19 school year.
After losing three consecutive sectional championship matches in the three seasons leading up to Schuster’s freshman year, deWolf was eager to push the Cougars over the top and away from the heartbreaking finishes they’d experienced so often.
Enter Brett Schuster.
“He came into a very successful program his freshman year and really made a big impact, making it even stronger, thanks to his play at third singles as a freshman,” deWolf said. “He really allowed our ladder to be competitive one through seven and helped us get over a jump where we’d lost three straight sectional championships in a row. And now he helped us win three straight sectional championships in a row.”
During Schuster’s three years of tennis at Cherry Hill East, the Cougars went a staggering 50-3, despite Schuster losing the chance to play his sophomore year because of COVID.
For that, Schuster is South Jersey Sports Weekly’s 2021-’22 Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
Much of the team’s recent success, deWolf said, can be traced back to Schuster’s play. Whether it was from the extension of the varsity lineup that he provided while playing third singles as a freshman, or the leadership and stellar play he showed at first singles during his junior and senior years, Schuster was a dynamic player for the Cougars each and every match.
“They’re in single digits for team losses over the three years that his senior class had the chance to play, which I can say definitely hasn’t happened in the 13 years that I’ve been head coach,” deWolf said. “All seven guys were All-South Jersey this year too, so the whole team needed to play well and step up as well. So we had a strong lineup, but Brett was the co-captain for a reason.
“He set a standard in practice and he followed it up with his play,” the coach added.
It was a quick maturation process on the court for Schuster, who will head to The College of New Jersey in the fall and continue his tennis career. The then-freshman was eager to make a name for himself at varsity during the 2018-’19 season, while still learning under the captains and team leaders who were older than he was.
But following that freshman year, the next time Schuster would touch the tennis court in an East uniform was already midway through his high-school career, when he jumped from third singles to first. Schuster had just gone from a rookie to co-captain without a single match between the two seasons.
“It really happened quickly, because that first year, I was learning from other people, but next thing you know, I was the person in charge of helping out the other guys,” Schuster said. “It was nice though, because I obviously knew how it felt to be looking up to those older guys on the team as a freshman. It just happened quicker than I expected it to.”
The team’s outstanding success during Schuster’s three years at East can’t be understated, and while the senior himself won quite a few big matches to help his teammates accomplish what they did, he said the group as a whole played the largest role in that success.
“It just shows how deep of a team we were overall the last few years,” Schuster said. “It starts at the top and goes all the way down. It sounds impossible to go back to back to back like we did and beat all the teams in South Jersey that we did.”