Princz’s Perspective is a weekly roundup of the youth sports scene in Highland Park. Sports Editor Howard Princz welcomes your input.
TENNIS: What happens when you combine three important ingredients to a boys tennis team that include the dominance of Maverick Lin with great play and the confidence of Leo Goldman alongside the Willpower of Will Chen? The result from such a recipe is Game Set and Match. Highland Park defeats Metuchen 4-1 on Monday, May 18 at Metuchen to capture the Central Jersey Group One tennis championship. It was the fourth time in the last five years that Highland Park, now 13-5 on the season, has captured the sectional crown in Central Jersey Group One.
Maverick Lin had some long rallies in his first singles match but rolled past Nick Asreen of the Bulldogs 6-0, 6-0. Leo Goldman played one of his strongest matches this season in defeating Ted Tiu 6-3, 6-2. “Winning the championship is pretty amazing,” said Mr. Goldman. “I felt more confident today. Having Maverick playing first singles takes pressure off. He is a great teammate, a good team player and has helped me with the technique with my forehand which has been better than it has been.”
Head coach Tim Stark said that “Leo’s win in his match put the pressure on Metuchen and for him being a junior captain gave him a huge amount of confidence.”
The championship was sealed when Will Chen, who trailed 5-2 in the first set before winning the tiebreaker 7-4, defeated Anil Patel 6-3 in the second and let out a huge scream of utter joy after the match.
“It was a lot of pressure being in the Central Jersey Group I championship. I had some butterflies but started to warm up and play better, said Mr. Chen. “My forehand has gotten stronger but there is always room to improve.”
Mr. Shark commented that “Will was not playing well trailing at 5-2 but he showed a lot of guts and determination….Metuchen and Shore were the favorites going in and we were considered an underdog the beginning of the season. The Shore victory was a validation for us.”
John Buzzbee and Jisu Jeong defeated Aidan Benderly and Anthony Causell 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in second doubles. The only blemish came in first doubles when the duo of Amar Venugopal and Josh Chen of Highland Park were defeated by Aman Agrawal and Gary Xian of Metuchen 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. Coach Stark was proud of the way the doubles teams fought back despite their struggles early on in their collective matches.
On Thursday, May 14, the Owls reached the Central Jersey sectional final by outlasting a tough Shore squad in a 3-2 victory. Lin won another match by a 6-0, 6-0 score. Cameron Walsh defeated Leo Goldman 7-6, with Leo Goldman fighting hard despite losing the tiebreaker 9-7. Walsh wrapped up the match winning the second set 6-3. Will Chen overcame a cramp in his hand to outlast Robert Greenberg 6-4, 6-7 (10-12 tiebreaker), and closed out the match with a 6-3 win in the decisive third set. Josh Chen and Amar Venugopal lost their first doubles match but the Owls clinched victory as Jisu Jeong and Patrick Liu won in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 (7-2 in tiebreaker).
In my next column, I will have the results of the concluding matches at the end of May.
TRACK: Some personal bests were recorded by both the girls and boys track teams of Highland Park at the Greater Middlesex Conference Track Championships at South Plainfield May15-16. Gabby Sanchez finished fifth in the long jump with a leap of 16-2. The girls 4×400 relay team finished eighth in the county in 4:16. The team consisted of senior Rebecca Chant, Yasmine Lekhal, Aniya Davila and Ms. Sanchez.
“Their performance in the 4×400 was a big surprise,” said Girls Track Coach Keith Roig. “Gabby Sanchez ran a split in 1:02 followed by Yasmine in 1:03, Aniya in 1:05 Pam and Rebecca in 1:05.”
Anna Minakina finished ninth in the 100 hurdles in 16.35. Ms. Chant finished 11th in the 800 meters in 2:28. Ms. Lekhal finished 24th in the 800 in 2:32. Liz Girvan ran a time of 1:05 in the 400 meters. On the boys’ side, Luke Schroeder ran a time of 2:12 in the 800 meters. Ethan Bull finished 20th in the two mile in 10:28.
“It was nice to see the kids peaking at the right time of the season. I am really looking forward to the states. I expect more personal bests. I think our girls’ team has a chance to be a top five in central group one,” Coach Roig said.
SOFTBALL: It was another crazy week plus for the Lady Owls. On Tuesday, May 12, the Owls won a crazy game against Woodbridge Academy, outlasting their opponents in a wild 34-24 victory. The 10-8 Lady Owls were led by senior center fielder Nautica Dennis who collected two hits including a triple, walked three times, scored five runs and drove in five runs. Senior pitcher Zoe Shombert went 3-for-7 with a triple, five runs scored and five RBI. Of the 24 runs allowed by Ms. Shombert, only seven were earned. She fanned five and walked four.
The Lady Owls defense continued to struggle overall, committing 10 errors on the afternoon. Junior first baseman Sydney McManus-Smith went 3-for-5 with a double, homer, two walks, three runs scored and four RBI. Hallie Lerner went 0-for-4 but walked, drove in two runs and scored two runs. Ester Adiv collected two hits including a triple, walked three times and scored four runs. Senior short stop Carly Aversa went 2-for-7 with a run scored and three RBI. Senior third baseman Nyajah Boykins walked four times, was hit by a pitch, stole a base, drove in two runs and scored six runs. Mikaela Zirin went 1-for-3 with 3 walks, an RBI and four runs scored. Simona Moyal went 1-for-2 with two walks and three runs scored. Rubiel Rojas walked, drove in a run and scored a run.
On Wednesday, May 13, the Lady Owls were eliminated from the preliminary round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament when South Brunswick rolled to a 17-1 victory. Ms. McManus-Smith doubled in Ms. Shombert in the fourth inning for the only run for Highland Park. Nautica went 1-for-2 with a single. On Friday, May 15, the Lady Owls lost in the first round of the Central Jersey Group I tournament. Point Pleasant Beach rolled to an 11-0 victory in a five-inning affair. Highland Park’s only hit was a single by Ms. McManus-Smith. Kylee Kells tossed the one-hit shutout and struck out 12. On Monday, May 18, New Brunswick came from behind to edge Highland Park 10-9 on a passed ball in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Lady Owls fall to 10-11 on the season. They have lost three straight games.
Highland Park has had trouble holding the lead in recent games. In the game against the Lady Zebras, Highland Park took an early 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning and couldn’t hold it. Later on the Lady Owls claimed a 9-6 advantage going into the bottom of the fifth but New Brunswick scored three runs to tie the score.
Here’s a stat to look at. All ten runs that Zoe gave up were unearned. She walked two and struck out eight. Nautica went 2-for-5 with two stolen bases and two RBI. Hallie went 1-for-3 with a walk, two RBI and a run scored. Ms. Adiv went 1-for-4 with a run scored. Sydney went 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored. Simona went 1-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. Rubiel scored a run. Zoe walked and drove in a run and Mikaela went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored.
BASEBALL: The baseball team fell to 6-14 on the season after being held to two hits in a 10-0 defeat against Shore Regional in the first round of the Central Jersey Group I tournament.