Freshman Delivers as Pinelands Regional Boys Tennis Team Reaches Sectional Final

By DAVID BIGGY | May 22, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands freshman Brian Delbury whacks a forehand return during his 7-5, 7-5 victory at first singles to give the Wildcats a 3-2 win over West Deptford in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II semifinals on May 16.

Little Egg Harbor Township — Sure, Brian Delbury already has played in some big matches during his tennis career. But playing as an individual in USTA tournaments is a tad different than being the first-singles player for your high school team, especially when all eyes are on you in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II semifinals.

With the rest of his Pinelands Regional teammates off their respective courts, a sizable crowd on hand and the second-seeded Wildcats knotted up with third-seeded West Deptford, 2-2 – and a shot at the sectional final on the line – the freshman phenom delivered the biggest win of his high school career thus far, knocking off Eagles senior Frank Harrold, 7-5, 7-5, on May 17.

“It was a little bit of pressure,” Delbury said. “I’m pretty experienced at the game, so it was a matter of making the routine shots and playing my game. It was just another time I had to step up and win. But it was crazy. I was surprised to see all these people here. I didn’t think it would be like that, at all, and I can’t believe I just did that.”

Delbury held serve to go up 6-5 in the first set, then broke Harrold’s serve to go up 1-0. But as the young Wildcat continued to battle with his opponent through the second set – even falling behind, 4-3, after dropping two games midway through the set – he took notice of the other matches at Pinelands’ home courts winding down and realized advancing to the sectional final was going to fall on his outcome.

“When Arpit (Gainder) went down 4-1 in the second set, I knew it was going to come down to me,” Delbury said. “I won the first set, but it was really close. So I knew it would be a close second set as well. I just had to stay focused.”

Easier said than done when the 40 people who show up to watch are all standing near the fence surrounding your court. But Delbury kept his composure, broke Harrold’s serve to tie the set at 4-4, then held serve to go up 5-4. Harrold and Delbury held serve for the next two points, making it 6-5. Delbury then went up, 30-love.

“At that point, you can never think that you’re automatically going to win it, because he could have exploded for a bunch of points and then the pressure would have folded in on me,” he said. “I knew in the back of my head that I had to keep fighting.”

Harrold not only won the next two points, but then went up, 40-30, and forced Delbury to win a point for deuce. The freshman came through and ultimately finished off the senior on the other side of the net.

“To be going to a section final as a freshman is amazing,” Delbury said. “It’s a big challenge, for sure, but I’ll take it.”

Of course, senior Andrew Schulz will take it as well, considering he was the one to set up Delbury’s chance at pushing the Wildcats ahead by winning his second-singles contest, 6-0, 7-5, over Tyler Meitzler. After Schulz cruised through the first set, he found himself in a bit of trouble during the second, going down 5-2, and in danger of needing a third-set victory to keep the Wildcats in the match.

“I wasn’t playing my game, at all, and I knew that I had to get it straight because if I won my match that would put us in the position to win and advance,” Schulz said. “I needed to give Brian a chance, so I just had to play my game and change the momentum.”

Schulz worked the score back to within a point, 5-4, then dropped the hammer on his opponent, using a solid forehand and serve to swipe the next three points for the win.

“I was excited and confident going into the match because I’m one of the singles guys as a senior,” he said. “But it was really important for me to get my match in two sets. I didn’t want to go to a third set.”

Also helping the Wildcats’ cause was the second doubles team of Kieran Sundermann, one of the other seniors on the team, and Adam Grelak, who cruised to victory, 6-0, 6-4.

“When Arpit and I were playing second doubles as sophomores, we went to the section final and it was a good experience,” Schulz said. “Being able to play in a section final again is awesome. It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to go to Haddonfield, do the best we can and hopefully win the match.”

Unfortunately, the Wildcats’ best against Haddonfield wasn’t enough, as they fell, 5-0, to the Bulldogs on May 20. Pinelands is 15-2 with a pair of regular-season contests left.

Over the weekend in the Ocean County Tournament, Pinelands finished second behind team champ Toms River North with 29 points. Sam Cardillo and Josh Kline were the big winners at first doubles, capturing the county title with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 victory over North’s Josh Cocanower and Svar Shah. Schulz reached the final at second singles but was upended by North’s Evan Liou, 6-0, 6-1, and Gainder made it to the third-singles final before dropping a 6-2, 6-2 contest to North’s Aryan Kumar.

— David Biggy

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