SOMERVILLE, NJ - In what is believed to be the team’s first-ever sectional championship victory, the third-seeded Governor Livingston Highlanders boys tennis team defeated the Somerville Pioneers.
Victories in the second and third singles and first doubles matches helped the Highlanders capture the sectional crown.
After getting redemption against Fort Lee, the team that handed the Highlanders a tough loss in last year’s sectional championship, the Highlanders’ victory over Somerville also did not come without motivation and any victories from here on out, likely won’t either.
“When we learned that we would be a third-seed in this tournament, we were not happy because we felt we were better than a three-seed,” Governor Livingston head coach Mike Smookler said. “Since this tournament began, our mission has been to prove people wrong and the boys once again did that today.”
“I’m so proud of this whole team. They’ve been resilient all year, they’ve battled and have done a nice job of always sticking to the gameplan.”
After senior Harrison Joseph fell in the first singles match, the Highlanders received consecutive victories from sophomore Dave Schwartzman and senior Alec Palumbo in the second and third singles matches, respectively.
“Dave won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2 and dominated his match in the process,” Smookler said. “He had a tough outing in the semifinals against Fort Lee so he really needed this victory.”
Perhaps the most special victory of the day came at the hands of Palumbo, who found himself in a similar predicament as last year’s final against Fort Lee. This time, Palumbo came out victorious thanks to winning his sets, 6-2, 6-1.
“Alec put forth a dominating performance today and was really locked-in,” Smookler said. “Last year’s loss against Fort Lee hit him hard so to see him bounce back was great to see.”
“Alec was on a mission today and he wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip away from him.”
The Highlanders’s third and final victory of the day came in the first doubles when senior Carl Heer and sophomore Ray Li won their match, 6-4, 6-2. The first doubles victory proved to be the deciding match.
The Highlanders postseason run will continue on Wednesday when they’ll travel to Mercer County to begin play against other state sectional final winners.
Smookler has high hopes for his team regardless of Wednesday’s opponent.
“We’re peaking at the right time and I expect our guys to leave it all on the court,” Smookler said. “We’ll be ready to play.”