HOLMDEL – Make it seven in a row for the Holmdel girls tennis team.
The Hornets claimed their seventh straight Shore Conference Tournament title, as top-seeded Holmdel swept No. 2 seed Ranney in five sets.
Victoria Vogt (7-5, 6-3), Emily Jiang (6-2, 6-0) and Natalie Cipriano (6-0, 6-1) won singles matches, while the duos of Chloe Hansen and Riya Shah (6-4, 4-6, 10-8) and Melanie Chen and Sydnie Nied (6-0, 6-0) won doubles for Holmdel.
“Fortunately we just had the county tournament this past weekend, so I got to see a lot of their players and I knew their first doubles was good because they won the county tournament at first doubles,” said Chuck Chelednik, who in his 16th year leading the girls program. “They have one girl that is good at net and one girl that stays back, but has good groundstrokes so they work well together. They’re a senior-laden team and their one and two have been there a while, especially their one. I knew our toughest matches would be first singles and first doubles, and was pretty confident in the other spots. It was a good win for Vicky at first singles because (Ranney’s) Sophia (Salvador) is very good. First doubles was the last match to finish and was very close. We split sets and then it came down to a couple points here and there and we won, 10-8, in the super tiebreaker. We had already won the match because we won the first four courts, so that was also helpful.”
While Holmdel returns the same three singles players in Vogt, Jiang and Cipriano from a season ago, they are all playing in different spots from last year. Everyone else is a newcomer to varsity, either via the JV squad or as a freshman.
“We have an entirely different lineup from what we had last year. Some of the players are the same, but we have people in different spots,” Chelednik said. “To do that with three starters from last year and an entire different lineup is a testament to them and how hard they work not only during the season, but all year. Some of the new people and the JV kids that came up and contributed have gotten a lot better throughout the year. Plus we have two freshmen playing first and second doubles. It’s a good mix of upperclassmen, JV people from last year that worked hard to play now and freshmen.”
Holmdel finished as the runner-up at the state tournament last season for the fourth consecutive season. If they are to make another deep run into the state tournament this season, Chelednik’s young doubles players are going to have to improve.
“We are definitely led by our singles players; all three of them are back from last year and want to continue the run that we’ve had,” Chelednik said. “Honestly, while we’ve been winning, our doubles is still a work in progress. They’re getting better, but I don’t think we’re quite where we need to be yet to make a serious state run. But we’re getting there. That’s going to be important going forward because it always comes down to doubles anyway.”
With another Shore Conference title to their credit, the track record is there and so is the senior leadership in singles. If the young players in doubles take the strides necessary, Holmdel should be right back as a legit state contender come tournament time.