by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School boys tennis team’s run in the 2017 NJSIAA Tennis Tournament came to an end Tuesday afternoon with a tough loss to Livingston. The 2-seed Lancers had to overcome some early set wins by the 1-seed Mounties, but gutted through and took the match 4-1.
For head coach Andrea Noyes, despite the disappointment at the end, the season as a whole was a big success.
“Montclair had a ton of firsts,” she said. “First time in the finals of the Essex County Tournament. First time they tied for the conference title, with Newark Academy. First time they ever beat Livingston, Millburn, Newark Academy in one season at one point or another. They really had a lot of firsts.”
That doesn’t mean the loss to Livingston stings any less, especially since Montclair had beaten the Lancers three times previously. It’s hard to beat a team more than once, and very, very tough to do so four times.
Senior Peter Messenger won his battle against Livingston’s Jason Grant in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, but he was the only one to win his match. Both MHS doubles pairs lost, though Kevin and Andrew Wallace forced a third set, and third single Charles Becker also fell in his match.
Meanwhile, first single Leo Kupferman was locked in a tight match against Earl Hsieh which spanned a solid two hours and change. Both players fought hard, with Kupferman edging Hsieh in the first set, before the Lancer returned the favor in the second. The two settled the match in a super-set which Hsieh won 10-2.
“It was a disappointing end of the season for them, but I’m very proud of them and they played their hearts out,” Noyes said. “They did everything they could do to make it to the very end.”
The Mounties play in an incredibly tough section, one that has multiple teams rated as in the Top 20 across New Jersey. That makes their path tough every year but despite that, they were one of the best teams in their section. And as Noyes pointed out, they beat those teams this season, something they never had never done before this year.
“They battled every single day. Some people walk through these things and end up down in Mercer County [at the finals],” Noyes said. “These boys never get to just walk through it.”
The Mounties will lose three seniors at the end of the school year, including second single Messenger. The team certainly needs to rebuild a little, but some of the talent that helped carry them to success this season will remain. Kupferman has another year of experience under his belt and the Wallace brothers could qualify as singles.
The squad can’t quite look ahead, though as the season isn’t quite over for some of the Mounties. Messenger and Kupferman will take part in the individual singles tournament and the doubles pairing of Calvin Alexander and Garrett Pahl will be representing Montclair in the doubles tournament, which take place on June 4.