by Andrew Garda
The Montclair High School boys tennis team nearly made it back to the Essex County Tournament finals for the second straight year. But the team that took them down in the 2017 championship match repeated their feat this year, as second-seeded Millburn edged No. 3 Montclair, 3-2, Saturday at Branch Brook Park.
Newark Academy won the county title this year, defeating Millburn 4-1 in the final later in the day.
Montclair started off the tournament last Tuesday with a 5-0 sweep of Golda Och. Leo Kupferman beat Jonah Heimowitz at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-1. Kevin Wallace then beat Kai Ronen by the same score at second singles, while his brother Andrew swept Ian Rosen 6-0, 6-0 at third singles.
The first doubles team of DJ Finell and Max Wientraub beat Jared Berelowitz and Ethan Landau 6-0, 6-1, while the second team of Connor Piorkowski and Charles Becker beat Jonah Altmann and Sam Lurie in straight sets, as well.
In the quarterfinals, Montclair then thrashed sixth-seeded Columbia, 5-0.
The Mounties singles all repeated their success with Kupferman and both Wallaces sweeping out the Cougars’ singles of Ben Kaplan, Adam Kaplan and Kevin Tamayo. For the doubles this time out, coach Andrea Noyes made a few changes. Finell and Piorkowski were paired together as first doubles with Becker pairing with Daniel Korenbaum as second doubles.
Finell and Piorkowski beat the Cougars pairing of Seth Gordon and Jackson Wagner in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1, but the second doubles found themselves with a bit tougher road. After winning the first set 6-2, Becker and Korenbaum ended up in a back-and-forth match with Columbia’s second doubles., but won the second set 6-4.
That win set up Saturday’s match with Millburn and a chance for revenge on the part of Montclair.
Kupferman was the first to have his revenge, as he faced Millburn’s Alex Jacobs, who had beaten him 2-1 in the ECT finals last season edging the Mountie in a hard-fought superset, winning 6-4.
Kupferman came out fast and was dominant in his first set, beating Jacobs 6-0. Jacobs bounced back, though and the two found themselves in a tight battle for the second set. It looked as if the two might be headed for another superset showdown, but Kupferman would not be denied and he finished off Jacobs 6-4 to complete the sweep.
Meanwhile, Kevin Wallace found himself in a battle for his first set against Bryan Schick, who had beaten MHS’ Peter Messenger in the finals last year. Wallace lost a close first set 7-6. He looked to rebound in the second set, but Schick was too much and took the second set 6-3.
Kevin’s brother Andrew faced off against Mike Mirsky, the third single and another Miller who was part of the singles sweep in 2017’s ECT final.
Andrew Wallace continued his winning ways as he took down Mirsky 6-3, 6-3 in two well played sets.
Noyes had said earlier in the season that the doubles were the key to success, especially in the tournaments, and they were certainly the pivot point for this battle against Millburn.
She continued to move players around in her doubles teams, this time pairing Finell with Max Wientraub for first doubles with Becker and Piorkowski in second doubles.
Weintraub and Finell had a hard time with Millburn’s Jai Bansal and David Sternlieb, falling 6-2, 6-1 in straight sets.
Montclair was still alive, though, as Becker and Piorkowski took the first set against Jean Germa and Austin Peng, 6-2.
The Millers’ second doubles didn’t give up though, and took the next set 6-3, setting up a third set for the right to advance to the ECT finals.
Becker and Piorkowski put up a tremendous fight, but couldn’t hold off the Millers pair, losing the final set 6-4.
While a disappointing end to the tournament, Montclair continues to show how strong a program it is this season. Kupferman finished second individually in the tournament behind Livingston’s Michael Sun and he and the Wallace brothers each only have one loss so far this season. If Noyes can figure out the doubles pairings, the Mounties have more than enough talent to overcome losses like this. With a game against Newark Academy in the books from Tuesday, and a big match against Don Bosco Prep on Friday, Montclair will have ample opportunity to get the job done.