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Oakhurst, N.J. - Back-to-back Shore Conference Tournament championships were not in the cards for the Holmdel High School boys tennis team on Monday afternoon, losing to Marlboro 5-0.
Standing now at 12-2 on the season, the Hornets will shift their attention to the NJSIAA Group 2, Central Jersey Tournament.
Holmdel owns the No. 1 seed in the sectional tournament, and with a first round bye will face either Raritan or Jackson Liberty in the second round in its pursuit of a fifth straight sectional championship.
“We have to keep working hard and keep improving,” said Holmdel boys tennis coach Chuck Chelednik. “Marlboro is a great team. They have a tremendous group of players. Playing them and playing CBA twice will hopefully help us get ready for states.”
The Hornets have won four straight NJSIAA Group 2 championships. Since 2011, Holmdel has won six Group 2 titles.
“It’s going to be a tougher challenge this year to win sectionals and if we do, states again,” Chelednik said. “We do have a lot of guys back from last year. There’s a lot of teams in our section that have gotten better.”
The lineup for Holmdel going into states will start with Krishna Kallakuri at the No. 1 singles spot
Making the leap to the No. 1 singles spot as a sophomore this season, Chelednik has been pleased with how Kallakuri has battled all year against the top guys in the Shore Conference.
Kallakuri fell to Marlboro’s Eitan Khromchenko in straight sets 6-2, 6-1 in the finals on Monday.
Alex Tsai has been, as Chelednik would say, the “steady force” at the No. 2 singles for Holmdel all season.
The senior showed his toughness and never quit attitude in his match during the conference finals, battling back from losing the first set 6-3 to win the second set 6-3 to force a do-or-die tiebreaker set.
Tsai went on to lose the tiebreaker set 10-5.
“Alex is one of our leaders on the team,” Chelednik said. “He leads by example. I’m proud of the way he fought to the end in his match to give himself a chance to win.”
Like Kallakuri, the No. 1 doubles pair of Allen Lu and Jason Yan made a jump in the lineup by going from No. 2 to No. 1 this year.
Despite a tough straight set loss to Marlboro in their conference finals match, Chelednik expects both Lu and Yan to do just fine in sectional tournament.
Arjun Menon at No. 3 singles and Brian Chu and Aidan Kwong as the No. 2 doubles pair rounds out the rest of the lineup for Holmdel.
Chelednik believes all them can help Holmdel in the tournament, especially Chu and Kwong at No. 2 doubles.
Chu and Kwong have been jellying nicely and are playing very well at the moment said Chelednik. He believes both players can deliver that big point at the No. 2 doubles spot for Holmdel.
Menon lost in straight sets 6-0, 6-1 in the conference finals, while Chu and Kwong lost both their sets by a score of 6-4.
Another nice group of players to do battle with in the sectional tournament, Chelednik is happy to be coaching a squad of players that love to play the sport of tennis.
“We have a nice group of kids,” Chelednik said. “Our kids love playing tennis. They work hard to get better every day and enjoy playing with one another. It’s a fun group of kids to coach.”
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports