first_imgBy MATTHEW ROCCO Correspondent The Holmdel High School boys tennis team is once again a team to beat in the Shore Conference.After a year in which the Hornets won the Shore Conference Tournament and appeared in the NJSIAA Group II finals, Holmdel is back on the court with many of the same faces. The Hornets kept seven of their top eight players from 2014, including one of New Jersey’s toughest competitors at first singles.Michael Chen is perhaps the best weapon in Holmdel’s arsenal. The senior ended last season as the first state singles champion in school history, defeating top-seeded Tyler Schick of Millburn High School.Chen hasn’t skipped a beat in the early going this spring. Going into the Bryan Bennett Tournament at Delbarton School last weekend, Chen had dropped just a single game to start the season.The changes to Holmdel’s roster start with the rest of the singles lineup. Junior Dennis Barlotta moved up a slot to replace the graduated Sam Joynson at second singles, while sophomore Harrison Lin went from doubles to third singles.Head coach Chuck Chelednik, who is leading the Hornets for his 16th season, said Lin earned a shot at playing singles “after doing really well at doubles” a year ago.Doubles could be the key to the season, since the Hornets have two new duos competing this year.Holmdel was swept in doubles play by South Brunswick High School, which earned a 3-2 victory at the Delbarton tournament. But Chelednik expects things to improve as the season moves forward.“We have to get the chemistry down, learn to play together and talk together,” Chelednik said. “We have talented kids, but a lot of people are in different spots.” Senior David Lin and freshman Justin Wain are partners at first doubles this season. Holmdel is currently alternating pairings at second doubles. Juniors Blain Liang and Charles Jiang have “a lot of potential” and will handle most matches, according to Chelednik. He also said Liang and Jiang have already taken a step up early in the season, and Chelednik is looking forward to seeing them compete in big matches down the road. Seniors Austin Huang and Oliver Zheng are also in the second doubles rotation. They booked a point for Holmdel in a tournament win April 11 over West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. With Chen leading an experienced Hornets squad, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to find Holmdel defending its 2014 titles. The Hornets defeated Marlboro High School for the Shore Conference Tournament championship last year. They went on to take a sectional crown but fell in the Group II finals to perennial NJSIAA rival Haddonfield Memorial High School. Holmdel is undoubtedly lined up to be in the mix when the postseason arrives. How far the Hornets can travel likely depends on their progress in doubles play.“In the Shore, we should be fine at doubles. Statewide, we have to get better,” Chelednik said.Doubles proved to be a strength April 12 when Holmdel defeated Randolph High School 3-2 in the consolation finals of the Bryan Bennett Tournament.Wain and David Lin won their match in three sets, while Huang and Zheng posted a 6-4, 6-2 victory. Harrison Lin added a point with a win at third singles.last_img read more

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