The only thing that prevented Newark Academy from winning another group title last year was a pandemic.
Back at Mercer County Park this time around, the No. 1-ranked Minutemen kept the train going by defeating No. 3 Pingry, 5-0, in the Non-Public final. It is their 10th title in a row and state-high 27th all-time. This season, due to many opt-outs within the private school ranks, North Jersey and South Jersey Non-Public A and B shrunk down to North, Non-Public and South, Non-Public so there is only one team representing that side of the lane this year.
”It makes it extra special especially not having a season last year. Every year it is a new group of guys. We’re humbled and grateful to have a season this year,” Newark Academy head coach Lou Scerra said. “We fought on every court Pingry is a great team and our guys showed up today. They were very motivated. Hats off to Pingry and honestly hats off to Delbarton as well who we played in the sectional final. Weird circumstances this year, and we feel fortunate to represent the non-publics.”
At first singles, Nicolas Kotzen defeated Hugh Zhang, 6-2, 6-2. Sam Goidel fought hard to top Samuel Henriguez, 6-1, 6-4, as well at second singles and Josh Mandelbaum also recorded a 6-0, 6-2 victory against Caleb Park at third singles.
Andrew Kotzen and Andrew Zabelo teamed up to top Ryan Burns and Miles Kelly in the first doubles match, 6-2, 6-3, while Ethan Polen and Saif Prabhu at second doubles beat and gritty duo of Asher Matthias and Walker Johnson, 6-1, 7-5.
“We were here two years ago and the year prior and got those titles. Since then, it’s been tough not having a season last year,” Goidel said. “That gave us extra motivation to come out here and compete as hard as we could today. I’m proud of all the returning players. We’ve all stayed in shape. All the new players have stepped up too in big ways. To get the win today is an excellent feeling. Can’t wait for the TofC.”
In past years on the courts, Goidel struggled with hot weather and cramping up. Temperatures were in the 90s in West Windsor and the humidity was through the roof making conditions tough. But, Goidel and his teammates battled it like everyone else and they all came out winners.
“The heat was tough today. I told myself during the tough moments to keep it simple and to play within myself,” Goidel said. “I’m proud of the way I battled through the head. It is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I definitely worked a lot on my conditioning. I felt really strong.”
Newark Academy has been NJ.com’s No. 1 team in New Jersey since the preseason and that’s no different now. It is undefeated at 22-0 and there’s no sign of stopping. After a bye, the top-seeded Minutemen will play either fourth-seeded Demarest, the Group 2 champion, or fifth-seeded Glen Rock, the Group 1 champion, in the Tournament of Champions semifinals on Wednesday afternoon.
Newark Academy, which has 13 T of C titles, last won it all in 2016.
“We fight and we support each other,” Scerra said. “Our singles players open up the court and our doubles players play aggressive nd play together. We’ll do the best we can and we’ll fight one match at a time.”
Added Goidel: “This team has so many guys who are so individually self motivated. When we combine our passion of tennis into a team, as a whole, we can do special things.”
For Pingry (16-1), there’s no reason to hang heads. The Big Blue were unbeaten up to this point and won the Somerset County Tournament last month.
“We’re happy to be here today. Newark Academy is really strong at every position and we gave it our best shot,” coach Marion Weber said. “We had a phenomenal season. I think we can hold our heads high. We had to battle some tough teams this year. We have a young team and we’re looking forward to next year.”
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