Tennis Ace Alec Palumbo Named Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week; Finds Redemption in Intense Victory

Alec Palumbo (right) with Carl Heer, Harrison Joseph and Coach Michael Smookler with Sectional Championship plaque.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston senior Alec Palumbo's back to back victories in the semifinal and championship rounds were critical must win matches that helped secure the first ever Boys Tennis Sectional Title for the Highlanders.

Palumbo, with an individual season record of 15-4 at third singles, has proven to be a technically and mentally strong tennis player defeating competition from New Providence and Scotch Plains. He also prevailed in an intense match deciding two set victory over Fort Lee in the sectional semifinal and cruised to a two set victory over Somerville for the sectional championship.

For his focus and determination to win and his role in bringing home the first ever Boys Tennis Sectional Championship to Gov. Livingston, Alec Palumbo is named Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week.

Sign Up for E-News

Palumbo found himself in the same situation as last year in the sectional championship playoffs against Fort Lee. Last year, he fell short in the deciding match -- this year, he found redemption and prevailed. He was down a set point in the first set and came back to win a 7-4 tie break and then won 6-3 to take the match in two sets to advance his team to the sectional championships.  

"It means so much to have the opportunity to redeem myself for last year's loss against the same team under similar circumstances," said Palumbo. "I was so relieved after I won because I was not going to let this match out of my grasp."

Even after playing what Alec believes was his best tennis in last year's championship, he still lost to a powerful opponent. "This year, I just focused on the technique and was successful this time around," he said.

"Last year's loss against Fort Lee hit him hard, so to see him bounce back was great to see," said Coach Mike Smookler. He said Palumbo really locked in and put forth a dominating performance in the finals. 

Going into the championship match this year, the team had no idea they could be the first team to win the title. "It's a proud accomplishment to be part of the first GL Boys Tennis team to win state sectionals. Being the first team to do it can never be taken away from us," said Palumbo.

While it was rewarding for him to win the deciding match in the semis and a match in the finals, Palumbo credits his teammates for their contribution to the championship victory. Second singles player David Schwartzman played the best tennis Palumbo has seen him play against Somerville's Max Rothschild in the finals. And first doubles team Carl Heer and Ray Li were in such a groove, said Palumbo -- their match was done much quicker than expected and proved to be the deciding match. [Heer never lost a set in three years of State Sectionals matches.] 

"Coach Smookler [in his second year as head coach] only needed two years to get us to the finals back-to-back and we won the second time around," said Palumbo.

Below are comments from Alec regarding his past, present and future: 

TAPinto: Did you change your approach in these important matches?

Alec: Our mindset in the last two matches were just to remove the high stakes situation and just play it out point to point. We did not want to get caught up in the tension and pressure; we definitely played looser because of our point-to-point mentality. 

TAPinto: What is the strongest part of your game?

Alec: The strongest part of my game has to be my serve and volley. It's a strategy not a lot of kids do but after a year of doubles with Carl Heer and losing too many points from the baseline, the net was where I needed to be. I would approach the net almost every point when I could not out rally certain opponents, even when returning. I could trust my overhead no matter what the score was which helped. My net-game definitely saved me in a few matches this year. 

TAPinto: How has your game changed? 

Alec: My game has changed from last year because I would tend to absorb the pace of the rally rather than trying to overpower from the baseline. My ground-strokes were not my weapon like they were junior year so I would try and volley once I found a deep shot to hit. I managed to make my serve a weapon as well instead of a burden like it was two years ago. 

TAPinto: What was the most memorable match you have played at GL?

Alec: My most memorable match I played was definitely against Seton Hall last year. I split sets against a very strong player named Brandon and we were evenly matched. -- I still think it was the best tennis I have ever played. His experience definitely edged me out in that match. -- We really left it all on the court. Even though we lost 4-1, I felt that I learned a ton from that match and was a better player afterwards especially being down that late in the 3rd set. The fight was never over. 

TAPinto: What is the best coaching advice you have received from Coach Smookler?

Alec:  The best advice I have gotten from Coach Smookler was to to employ what became a big part of my game: I would hit a drop shot slice and then approach the net for a put-away volley. It worked on players that were much better than me stroke-wise. He really knows what players hate. 

TAPinto: Who inspires you the most?

Alec: My biggest inspiration was Andy Roddick. His style of play got me into the sport of tennis and I had the privilege of playing with him and meeting him. A very humble and gifted athlete (US Open champion). Also my dad has spent more hours than I could count practicing with me, sometimes twice a day. He really pushed me to work hard. 

TAPinto: Did you train all year long for tennis? How do you train in the off season?

Alec: Usually the seniors and I (Carl Heer, Harrison Joseph) and alumni Alex Woo and Ethan Fong would hit around or some other teammates and I would play sets in the summer and early fall. Off the court we would hang out sometimes too, we have a lot of fun. 

TAPinto: What is your favorite thing about GL?

Alec: My favorite thing about GL is that we are a gritty team. The match or game is never over until the final score is decided. I have seen some insanely driven comebacks not just from tennis at our school. 

TAPinto: How do you enjoy your time while not at school or playing tennis?

Alec: I am a filmmaker so I make short films with my friends and sometimes other local actors. I have been able to work with some extremely generous and talented people in the film industry and it's a ton of fun making short action films (5 Dice Productions). My friends and I also spend a lot of time hanging out too, we are a very close group. 

TAPinto: Where are you going to college and what are you studying? 

Alec: I am going to Montclair State University and I am studying Directing to further my directing career. I am super excited to meet new friends and seize any opportunities that come my way. And hopefully there's a few tennis courts nearby... 


Delicious Heights Highlander Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Delicious Heights, a family restaurant with three locations; Berkeley Heights, Bedminster and Basking Ridge, where it is part of the Basking Ridge County Club operating a public restaurant with outdoor dining, and acting as the banquet caterer, boasting a facility with panoramic views of the sprawling golf course. Visit our website, for weekly specials including Happy Hour specials from 3-6pm and daily featured dinner and lunch specials. Delicious Heights....where our only limitations are yours!

Delicious Heights is located at 428 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. 908.464.3287; 285 Main Street in Bedminster. 908.234.1596; 185 Madisonville Road in Basking Ridge. 908.766.9499.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

TAPinto Spotlight on Business Features New Providence Dentistry

July 17, 2018

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - TAPinto "Summer Spotlight on Business" features local businesses and their owners who are important to our communities. Follow this column to receive a fresh perspective on small business owners and their unique needs while shining a spotlight on their stories.

This edition features New Providence Dentistry, operated by Dr. Beth Herko and her staff of ...

Avoiding 10% Tax Penalty

Do you want access to money from your retirement accounts but aren't sure of the real costs involved?

Most retirement accounts have a set age requirement you must reach before making penalty-free income distributions, which is usually 59.5 but can sometimes be as early as age 50. If you decide to access your accounts earlier, you could face penalties ranging from 10%-25%, which is not ...

Beneficiary Forms - As Important as Your Will

As you plan for the future, don’t leave out one of the most overlooked must-do’s: naming the beneficiaries of your retirement assets. Updating your beneficiary forms ensures that the legacy you worked so hard to build will be distributed correctly. Don’t delay -- the designations on your beneficiary forms supersede those stated in your Will. 

Try answering the ...

ReNew Salon and Spa Welcomes Senior Stylist Joan Mormilo

July 17, 2018

GILLETTE, NJ - ReNew Salon and Spa welcomes Senior Stylist Joan Mormilo to their staff. Mormilo brings with her over 20 years of excellent customer service in the salon and spa industry.

She has extensive product knowledge, focuses on keeping up-to-date on industry standards and practices, believes in mentoring young stylists, and is a team player who strives to ...

Complete the Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence (PACE) Program at Union County College in Five Weeks

CRANFORD – Union County College will be offering the American Society of Administrative Professionals PACE Certification (Professional Administrative Certification of Excellence) from Monday, July 23 through August 22. If you are an executive assistant, office manager, paralegal, program analyst, benefits administrator, supervisor or meetings and events planner, this program is for you.

17 Years Running and the Pizza is still Hot!! The Downtown Westfield 5K & Pizza Extravaganza is July 25, 2018

The 17th Annual Downtown Westfield 5K & Pizza Extravaganza, now more often referred to as the ‘Pizza Run’ will be here in no time! Don’t forget to sign up for a night of running, pizza, prizes, and entertainment! The event will be held on July 25, 2018 with a start time of 7 pm. Register online at before our Monday July 23, 2018, at 11:59 pm deadline will be ...

Union County’s Free Summer Arts Festival Continues July 18 at Echo Lake Park Featuring 5 Against 1

The Union County Summer Arts Festival concert series continues on Wednesday July 18, with the band 5 Against 1, a Pearl Jam  tribute band, taking the stage at Echo Lake Park in Mountainside.

The free series, presented by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders,is held at Echo Lake Park during July and moves to Oak Ridge Park in Clark during August.

5 Against 1, which ...

Geoffrey the Giraffe Moves In To New Brunswick Children's Hospital

July 12, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.

"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, July 17, 10:00 AM

Healing the Children, new providence

Summit Old Guard

Giving Back

Wed, July 18, 10:30 AM

Berkeley Heights Public Library, Berkeley Heights

Story Time & Craft with DIVA DELORES AND THE ...



Wed, July 18, 1:30 PM

Trailside Nature & Science Center, MountainsidE

Trailside’s Annual Summer Wednesday Matinee ...

Arts & Entertainment Education


Wed, July 18, 6:00 PM

Summit YMCA, Summit

Senior Summer BBQ at the Summit YMCA

Food & Drink

Wed, July 18, 7:30 PM

Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham

Masterwork’s Summer Sing Four to Feature Brahms

Arts & Entertainment

Special June Episode of 'Berkeley Heights Here & Now' Features 6th Annual Street Fair

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Berkeley Heights Communications Committee (BHCC) today announced a special edition of Berkeley Heights Here & Now is available on the Township website,


The special episode features the 6th Annual Berkeley Heights Street Fair held on June 24 and includes onsite interviews with attending residents/visitors, event ...

Women Have Special Financial Needs That Advisors Overlook

Women have special financial needs that advisors overlook in two ways: 1) advisors don’t always acknowledge the different planning needs women have and 2) advisors don’t always communicate well with female clients – especially if the client comes to a meeting with her husband. It’s very common for a male advisor to spend much or most of the face time in meetings talking to ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...