What was certain in Monday’s NJSIAA Group 1 boys tennis state title match at Mercer County Park in West Windsor was that a team with Glen in its name would win, and the winning team would be celebrating an accomplishment that its program had been waiting a good stretch to achieve.
Glen Rock topped Glen Ridge 3-2 in the battle of Glens looking to win a state title for the first time in decades, and Glen Rock’s wait was the shorter of the two, with the Panthers winning for the first time since 2000.
With the win, Glen Rock will advance to Tuesday’s 1:30 p.m. NJSIAA Tournament of Champions quarterfinal, holding the fifth seed and facing fourth-seeded Demarest, the winner of the Group 2 title and the No. 14 team in the NJ.com Top 20. Tuesday’s winner will face top-seeded Newark Academy, the Non-Public winner, top-seeded in the T of C and the No. 1 team in the NJ.com Top 20, in Wednesday’s T of C semifinal.
The back-and-forth match saw Andrei Mircea win 6-1, 6-0 over Ben Woertz at third singles to take an early lead for Glen Rock before Glen Ridge won the next two to finish, with Tyler Blanz getting a win over Jason Kapiloff at second singles, 6-0, 6-0, and Grant Ghaemi and Ethan Tipping winning 6-2, 6-3 over Guillermo Aldaz and Nirvan Chandiramani at second doubles.
Gonzalo Aldaz and Ryan Burke won 6-2, 6-3 over Segun Wallace and Ryan Hirsh at first doubles to even the match for Glen Rock, putting the outcome of the state title on Matt Shulkin’s shoulders at first singles.
That was just fine with Shulkin, the senior said. Three years ago, Glen Rock made the state Group 1 final against Mountain Lakes, which swept the singles matches to take the win. Shulkin, then a freshman, was at second singles that day with his then-senior brother Joseph Shulkin at first.
Now a senior himself, Matt Shulkin has a different, and better, memory from the state finals.
“I was happy it came down to me,” Shulkin said. “This year, I wanted it to be me, almost, to be that pivotal point to push us above the edge, and I was really happy with that.”
The 2019 season saw Glen Rock make the final of the North Jersey Section 1, Group 1 tournament before running into Mountain Lakes again, and Glen Rock coach Bonnie Zimmermann had good feelings about 2020, with just two players graduating from the 2019 sectional final lineup.
Last season, of course, was canceled due to the pandemic, and even with only two players back in 2021 from the 2019 lineup in Matt Shulkin and Mircea, Zimmermann retained the optimism.
“I knew last year when we started that we were bound for going all the way,” Zimmermann said. “We can’t make that up, so let’s make it happen now. We graduated some excellent players, but new players came up and stepped up and had been working out and made it happen, and it was just one of those things that every day we were thankful that we played, thankful that we were winning, thankful that our guys didn’t give up ever and just had a great time.”