With Freshman in Lead Spot, Pinelands Boys Tennis Team Starts Season With a Rout

Apr 03, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Freshman Brian Delbury returns the ball during the first set of his debut as the Pinelands Regional boys tennis team’s first-singles player, as the Wildcats crushed Manchester, 5-0, on April 1.

Even though the boys tennis program at Pinelands Regional High School has one of the best records of winning division titles in the school’s history, only a few individual players have stepped onto the first-singles court as a freshman and remained there throughout his career.

“I might be the fourth one to do it,” said Brian Delbury, who on April 1 made his debut as the Wildcats’ premier player at the top of the lineup as Pinelands cruised past Shore Conference Class B South division rival Manchester, 5-0. “To play first singles as a freshman is insane, so it definitely feels like an accomplishment.”

In the Wildcats’ home opener, Delbury took control of his match early, scoring four straight points to grab a 1-0 lead in the first set and steamrolled his opponent from there, scoring a 6-0, 6-0 victory – using a combination of powerful forehand winners, several aces and a bunch of backhand drop shots to rack up points. Now, the 14-year-old’s goal is to remain undefeated on that court.

“Not a lot of people know this, but Matt Worosz played his whole career on the No. 1 court here and went undefeated,” Delbury said. “I’d like to do that myself, and today was a good first step. I felt pretty good.”

Interestingly, the arrival of Delbury to the varsity program meant that seniors Andrew Schulz and Arpit Gainder, who played in the No. 1 and No. 2 positions last season, each had to move a position down in the lineup. Of course, they didn’t just usher the youngster to Court 1.

“We knew a couple of years ago that Brian was coming,” said Gainder, after he too cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win. “But Andrew and I didn’t just step aside. He had to fight for his spot. We didn’t make it easy for him, but he got there. It’s OK, though. We’re a better team with him there.”

After Schulz wrecked his second-singles opponent in less than 40 minutes, the senior headed for Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham Park in the fall said having Delbury at the top of the lineup gives the Wildcats an excellent player to build around after he and the other three senior starters graduate in June.

“Brian’s a great player with a lot of experience in USTA tournaments,” Schulz said. “We have a lot of younger players waiting in the wings to come up to varsity, and Brian will be a great guy to lead the way in the years to come.”

But first, the Wildcats have some business to take care of this spring, namely capture the B South division crown, make a possible run at an Ocean County title and challenge for the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II championship. And with the three experienced singles players leading a pair of solid doubles crews – also led by seniors Sam Cardillo and Kieran Sundermann, who teamed with sophomore Josh Kline and freshman Adam Grelak, respectively, to win in straight sets Monday – Pinelands definitely has the components in place to be a contender.

“That’s what we’re looking for, to win the division and be contender everywhere else,” Schulz said. “We’re confident. We believe we can beat just about anybody we step on the court with, especially because Arpit and I have the singles experience from last year and now we’re going to play against a lot of opponents we should beat, and our doubles teams are going to be good as well with two seniors leading there. We’re excited about what we can possibly do this season”

Gainder said the Wildcats will proceed with caution, but they have no reason to not play with confidence.

“Of course, there’s going to be that day when somebody is off, or one of the doubles teams isn’t in sync,” he said. “So we won’t go into any match against any team and say we can roll over them. We’re going to have some battles. But we’re very confident about the players we have out there, and we’re going to do our best to win every match.”

Coach Brian Jones said this is the most excited he’s been for a season since he took over the program nine years ago.

“Obviously, we’ve had some pretty good teams since I’ve been here,” he said. “But this is the most balanced team I’ve had. We have a strong team, and I’m really excited about what’s coming the next couple of months.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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