Group 1 Tennis Champs!
Posted on 05/23/2019
Group 1 Tennis ChampsThe headline in the Star Ledger is "Highland Park seniors fuel first Group 1 championship in eight years." Below is the complete article:

Over the years, Highland Park has been one of the top teams in Group 1, but its had nothing to show for it so to speak. The Owls have won countless Central Jersey sectional titles but have come up short in the Group semifinals and finals.

But on Wednesday, Highland Park won the first Group 1 championship since 2011 by topping New Providence, the North Jersey, Section 2 winner, 3-2, at Mercer County Park in West Windsor.

"That was the year before I started coaching," said Highland Park coach Tim Stark. "We've won Central a lot, lost in the state final three times, and lost in the semifinals a couple times. I'm really happy for my seniors especially my singles guys. They've been playing for all your years and have won and lost a lot. They really worked hard and are the heart and soul of the team. It's their trophy."

For the Owls (15-5), first singles Patrick Lin defeated Sho Ogino, 6-0, 6-0, second singles Justin Ching topped Ethan Neidich, 6-3, 6-1, and James Ouyang beat Nikhil Choudhart, 6-2, 6-2. All three are seniors along with two double players.

Together, this was their final opportunity to get over the help and they did just that.

"It means a lot. This was our last shot," Lin said. "It feels good that our hard work paid off. I'm proud of my team."

The strength for Highland Park this season was its singles players and the three of them came through in a big way.

"The singles guys have been in the lineup all four years," Stark said. "The others worked their way in. James has been hurt basically all four years, but a cool stat for him, he's a six-time sectional champion because he won two in soccer, too. I'm happy for everyone but especially the seniors. Those three guys came in together, played together, and are close friends. I was glad that it came down to the singles."

This season, Highland Park made the jump up from playing similar smaller schools within the Greater Middlesex Conference to the Red Division with the bigger, more competitive schools against the likes of East Brunswick (No. 14 in the Top 20), J.P. Stevens (No. 17), South Brunswick, Monroe, and more.

Playing those teams provided valuable challenges which aided the Owls' state title run.

"That was a Godsend. Thinking back at it, I am so grateful to those coaches to allow us to play with that competition," Stark said. "In just about every match we tested and we knew that when we moved up. We wanted that competition. We knew wouldn't win the division and we knew the counties we would tough, but this was an achievable goal and playing that competition really set us up. The coaches were great and they welcomed us and they're texting me now asking how we did. It's great to have that support."

Lin, who won the first singles GMCT last year, felt the same way.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "This is the first year we played in the Red Division. My coach moved us up to help prepare for this moment."