NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - In the history of the Pioneers' boys' tennis program, there has never been a duo that has come even close to the success that first- and second-singles players Alex Hocken and Kevin Maluso have had this championship season.
Based on their success of being three-time straight Group 1 champions, The Alternative Press has named senior co-captains Alex Hocken and Kevin Maluso co-Athletes of the Week.
Both players are four-year varsity lettermen and have been key contributors throughout those seasons, leading the Pioneers to an unprecedented four sectional titles as well as three group championships to add to their decorated careers.
“It’s amazing to know all of the hard work that you put in pays off,” said Maluso. “It’s a great feeling to win and I couldn’t have asked to spend it with a better group of guys.”
“It’s been really special to be able to accomplish these achievements as a team the past few years,” said Hocken. “To watch this team grow and improve over the course of the season makes it even more special.”
The road to the group championship would have been impossible without the success on the court by the dynamic tandem, but the influence the two of them had off the court on their teammates is profound.
“He’s very enthusiastic and he’s an outstanding leader,” said head coach John Delioacono, referring to Maluso. “He also leads vocally, whereas Alex is the number one player, and he leads by action.”
It’s really a great synergy between the two seniors this year.”
After both Maluso and Hocken dominated their matches through the sectional rounds by defeating Glen Ridge and Dayton handily, they both knew they would have to come up clutch when it mattered most.
Hocken and Maluso made quick work of their group semifinal match against Shore, winning 6-0, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-1, respectively, to set the tone for New Providence, who went on to sweep the Central sectional champion, 5-0.
However, nobody came up more clutch than Maluso in the finals when he was needed most. After Hocken dropped an extremely competitive match to Pitman’s star singles player and the second doubles team for the Pioneers dropped their contest, New Providence’s 2-0 lead was quickly evaporated, which put the championship in the hands of Maluso.
After winning the first set easily, 6-0, he was unable to clinch the title, dropping the second set in a tiebreaker. However, Maluso dug deep and was able to overpower his opponent, beating David Shirley in the third set, 6-1.
“You can never ask to be put in a situation like that,” said Maluso. “When fate falls in your hands like that you just have to focus and play one point at a time. I’m so thankful for winning this match and this team really deserves it.”
“Kevin really came up big for us when we needed him most,” said Hocken. “I’m glad he was in that position and I knew he would come through for us.”
With the victory, the pair’s illustrious careers will be extended one more week. They will head back to Mercer County Park on Tuesday to take on Haddonfield in the Tournament of Champions.