NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Pioneer first singles player Kevin Stinchcomb knows nothing but perfection. The senior tennis star has won three straight state section and Group 1 championships in his high school career.
On Monday, Stinchcomb won his fourth section title, leading the Pioneers past Dayton, 3-2, in the North Jersey 2, Group 1 final at New Providence High School.
“Its pretty crazy being a part of such an amazing program with such a great history,” Stinchcomb said. “Every day is a privilege playing with the New Providence tennis program, so we definitely take it one step at a time. Its pretty crazy that this has become the expectation for our team instead of the exception.”
Stinchcomb led the way in the section final, beating Dayton’s Ross Schickler in straight sets for his sixth straight victory. The senior never trailed in the first set, beating Schickler, 6-4, however, in the second stanza, he fell behind, 2-1, before taking the next five games to win the match.
“I was looking around, looking at the scores, a lot of the matches were really, really close. Second doubles had a really close first set. Third singles had a really close first set. I knew that I just needed to get the point for my team as fast as possible and give everybody some confidence.
All together, three Pioneers won their matches in straight sets. Chris Kang won his Third Singles match (6-4, 6-4), while the Second Doubles pairing of Christiano Hocken and John Souren defeated their Bulldog counterpart in two sets (7-6, 6-1).
Both the Second Singles (David Sann) and First Doubles (Brett Caminiti and Daiki Ogino) split their first two sets, before losing in a 10-point tie-breaker after the match was won by the Pioneers.
Overall, this is the sixth consecutive state section title won by the Pioneers, sending them back to the Group 1 tournament, which they have won each of the last three years.
Hocken, who watched his brother win the previous four section titles and three group championships, said the expectation of state championships puts a lot of pressure on him.
“It gets me really nervous during my match because if I lose, I’ll let the team down,” Hocken said. “I’m really nervous to let my team down.”
New Providence will face the South Jersey representative, Haddonfield, in the Group 1 semifinals on Wednesday at Mercer County Park in Trenton. Last year, the Pioneers fell to the Bulldogs in the Tournament of Champions when Haddonfield won the Group 2 title.
Stinchcomb, Sann (as a First Doubles player) and the duo of Caminiti and Ogino all lost to their Bulldogs competitors in straight sets.
Stinchcomb said the Pioneers have an edge against the competition because they have a wide variety of experience on the court.
“We have a lot of good state championship experience,” he said. “We bring back four starters from last year, so those four guys know exactly what it takes to win two matches at Mercer County Park…I think that the experience that we have on this team can also help with the new comers we have on Wednesday.”
New Providence's Group 1 semifinal match against Haddonfield begins at 9 a.m. from Mercer County Park.