Boys Tennis T of C seeding: No. 1 Newark Acad. rolls, No. 2 East Bruns. advances with anticlimactic ending

Tanuj Chandekar came back to win at third singles to help give second-seeded East Brunswick, No. 2 in the NJ.com Top 20, a 4-1 win over third-seeded and No. 4 Pingry in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semifinals at sunny and hot Mercer County Park in West Windsor.

Top-seeded and No. 1 Newark Academy advanced past fourth-seeded and No. 6 Millburn as well, 5-0, as the two matches played at the same time.

East Brunswick (23-1) and Newark Academy (23-0) will meet in the T of C final on Thursday at 2:00 pm back at MCP.

“I’m just so happy,” Chandekar said. “As the match went on, I felt the heat more and more. At the beginning I wasn’t playing well at all. He’s a strong opponent. I somehow just fought. It’s a big stage, and this is what sports are all about. You just have to find a way.”

Chandekar beat Asher Matthias, 7-5, 6-4. He was down 1-5 in the first set and came all the way back to win the final six games.

“I was serving down 1-5. I saved multiple set points,” Chandekar said. “After that, I just kept my returns in. I’ve come back from being down like that before, so I thought of that and just played my game and hoped for the best.”

Chandekar was up 3-0 in the second set before Matthias tied it up 4-4. But Chandekar pushed through and won the final two games to provide the clinching third point for the Bears to set up a rematch with Minutemen.

“My serve kept me in it and I got some big points there,” Chandekar said. “I made sure I stayed consistent. Last couple games, my team and my coach, they helped me so much. My family was here today. The support all helped.”

While Chandekar was wrapping up his match, the third set at first doubles had already started. With the set knotted at 2-2, the official stopped the match and ordered a 10-point tiebreaker to be played. Both coaches, the doubles players on the court, and their teammates off to the side tried their hardest to plea for the set to be finished. Their efforts were denied.

East Brunswick’s Nathan Bernadskii and Ryan Val ultimately won, 0-6, 6-4, 2-2(10-4).

“The win feels good, but that’s not the way we wanted to win,” Val said. “We were looking forward to finishing the set. They’re a great doubles team.”

The pair of top doubles tandems have a chance to meet in the state doubles tournament semifinals, and they would welcome the challenge, but they wish they were able to complete the entire match that they started.

“It’s upsetting that this is the last T of C, and we can’t finish the match the way it should have,” Bernadskii added.

Burns and Kelly breezed through the first set without giving up any games. They also were up 4-1 in the second set before Val and Bernadskii charged back.

“We lost 10 games in a row and we had to do something. We changed our strategy and got more balls in. We hit it toward the net more and it worked out,” Val and Bernadskii combined to say.

East Brunswick went up 2-0 thanks to wins at the top two singles spots. Jack Wong defeated John Paul Salvatore, 6-2, 6-0, and Siddharth Srinivasan beat Caleb Park, 6-3, 6-0. Pingry got his win at second double aces Aviv Cohen and Nathaniel Blum won 7-6(7-2), 6-2, over Carson He and Andrew Cui.

Playing for the fourth time this season, the Minutemen were able to beat the Millers for the fourth time.

Nicolas Kotzen grinded to top Matias Feoli, 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), at first singles, Josh Mandelbaum defeated Aarush Gupta at second singles 6-1, 6-0, and third singles, Andrew Kotzen shutout Aryn Juneja , 6-0, 6-0.

At first doubles, the duo of Ethan Polen and Andy Nagpal also recorded a 6-2, 7-5 victory against Seth Abrams and Aryaman Sampat, while second doubles Saif Prabhu and Jean-Luc Marchand won against Aryan Dugar and Arihan Hukeri, 6- 3, 6-1.

“It’s been our goal the whole season, really, to do the same thing as last year,” Andrew Kotzen said. “We wanted to keep our heads down and be humble at the same time though. We got job done today, and now we have one more to go. We want to win the last T of C ever. We want to finish with a bang.”

Andrew’s older brother, Nick, has missed a bunch of matches this season including the Non-Public B final last week, but he was back today and his presence only makes Newark Academy more formidable.

“A lot better. It gives us a lot of confidence seeing Nick out there,” Andrew Kotzen said. “Everyone just gets more energy to push forward. We’re a strong, full team. We’re able to beat anyone.”

Andrew Kotzen of Newark AcademyScott Faytok | For NJ Advance Media

Thursday, Newark Academy and East Brunswick will meet in the T of C final for the second consecutive season. The Minutemen won last spring, 5-0. Newark Academy has won 14 T of C championships in 18 final appearances while the Bears won once in 1992 in ironically the first-ever T of C over Newark Academy.

“We’re excited because we’ve been looking forward to this since last year when we lost,” Val said. “I think now we’re a lot more experienced and we have a better team. We got stronger and have a better shot.”

“We’re gonna have to play good tennis,” Chandekar said. “We’re going to have to physically and mentally strong and prepare well. We’ve been looking forward to this all season. It’s the match we’ve been wanting all along. We got here last year and we Jack and Sid on the team this year, we knew we’d have a good chance to be back. We’re going to give it our all.”

The two schools will have played in the first and last T of C’s for boys tennis.

“It’s good to accomplish our goals,” Kotzen said. “We knew we were probably going to play either East Brunswick or Pingry as the season went along. They’re two of the best teams in the state. We’re excited to have good competition tomorrow.”

Pingry went 20-2 on the season with its other loss coming without its full lineup to Group 4 semifinalist and No. 3 Bergen Tech. Pingry won the Prep A Tournament in addition to the Somerset County Tournament. The Non-Public A title was just the second it won in program history.

Millburn put forth another solid 25-6 campaign. Four of its defeats were to Newark Academy and one other one was to East Brunswick. Millburn made it to the Essex County Tournament championship, won the Blue Devil Invitational to go along with the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 tournament and the overall Group 3 title.

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Contact Chris Nalwasky at cnalwasky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ChrisNalwasky.

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