Mustangs, Colonials chasing tennis crowns

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

In-house competition has made a good Freehold Borough boys tennis team even better.

The Colonials return five of the seven starters from the team that won the Shore Conference B North Division championship in 2006. If things stayed as they were, the Colonials would be a strong favorite again, but the fact that the players went out and improved their games dramatically has put the Colonials among the Shore’s elite teams.

Jeremy Goldman and Rajat Verma, who were an outstanding tandem at first doubles last year, are now playing first and second singles.

Kevin Sun, who played second last year, is now playing third singles. First-year head coach Jon Block was quick to point out it wasn’t because Sun isn’t playing better than he did last year, it’s based on how well Goldman and Verma are playing. The Colonials now have a singles lineup that can compete with anyone.

Fred Yick (who played third singles last year) is teaming up with Illan Levy (second doubles in ’06) at first doubles while Siddarth Melkote and Greg Zimmerman are at second doubles.

The Colonials are as solid here as they are at singles.

“To be a top-level team you have to be strong at doubles and singles,” noted Block.

Freshman Melkote has been the most important addition. Besides playing second doubles, he has played third singles (he won that match) and at first doubles, when he has been needed.

The Colonials go into this week undefeated and begin play in the Shore Conference Tournament this afternoon against the winner of a preliminary match between Point Pleasant Boro and Manasquan.

Tomorrow, the Colonials will host Ocean Township in the first of two meetings between the two teams who are in contention for the B North Division.

This is a very big week for the Colonials, and they know it.

“They put a lot of work in over the winter playing in USTA tournaments to prepare to get to the upper level,” said Block.

“Losing to Princeton in the states and Ocean in the SCT left a bad taste in their mouths.”

The Colonials can go a long way toward joining the upper level with a win over Ocean and an SCT win.

At Marlboro, Dave Kretzmer’s Mustangs are exceeding expectations thanks to some key additions and the improvement of their returners.

Marlboro is 8-0 and well on its way to regaining the A North title they held on to for so long. With two wins over Manalapan, their toughest competition, the Mustangs are in the driver’s seat.

The Mustangs had some holes to fill this year and everything just seemed to fall into place. Ilan Gamburg moved to No. 1 as expected and brought with it experience. The lineup behind Gamburg, though, was a huge question mark.

Up stepped Brian Rau.

He wasn’t considered a factor at singles until the tryouts, where he earned the No. 2 singles slot. A transfer from India, Hitsh Daggubatti, solved the puzzle at third singles, and suddenly Kretzmer had a singles lineup he could have confidence in. They have lived up to that confidence, helping the team dominate A North.

Doubles have been equally strong for Marlboro. The team has a lot of depth there. Bryan Lisser and Devin Goodman have settled in at first doubles. Adam Orachnet and Shard Bhargana have been playing second doubles, with players like Afshin Himami and Travis Winkler on deck.

Marlboro was seeded fourth in the SCT and if the seedings hold up, the Mustangs will be hosting the Colonials in a quarterfinal match on Friday.