Boys tennis fans were faced with a transition this season.
Gone were two-time state champion Jonathan Carcione of Ramapo, rival Michael Solimano of Pascack Hills and many of the other top players who had battled the last three years to be called the best in the state.
It left a hole that needed to be filled. And a new group stepped up to the challenge.
Just take a look at the all-county and all-area teams that will fill newspapers up and down the state the next two weeks. Many of them will likely be loaded with underclassmen.
In North Jersey alone, five of the eight players on the first team All-Bergen County list (four singles and two doubles teams) are underclassmen. In Passaic County, it’s seven of 10 players on the All-Passaic first team.
Seven of the eight quarterfinalists in the state tennis tournament were underclassmen. Half of those, including state champion Maverick Lin of Highland Park, were sophomores.
“You definitely had a much more talented group of kids this year that were freshmen and sophomores,” said Waldwick junior Nick Bradley, who went three tough sets with Lin in the state final. “It definitely gives you a boost. It’s not often you get to play against kids like that.”
What it has also done is create rivalries that should shape the game next year and likely into 2015 as well.
For Bradley, those will be in the person of Lin and junior Daniel Wright of Saddle River Day. Wright took Bradley to three sets twice this season, including in the final of the Bergen County small schools tournament, where they are likely to find each other again next year.
And people are beginning to pick up on the game, both as spectators and participants, creating more interest in the sport at some schools. Clifton junior Richard Rangga reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament this season, the first boy to get that far in Andrea Bobby’s more than 20 years as Mustangs coach.
“The kids have been great,” Bobby said. “I have kids coming to me now who are already tennis players rather than kids picking up the game for the first time.”
It could make for an interesting season in 2014.