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S.J. Tennis: Moorestown wins state title

By Phil Anastasia

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- It took three sets and three shirts.

It took more than two hours, several ice bags, a wet towel and a change in strategy.

But at the end of a long and grueling match at the end of a long and grueling day, Moorestown senior Hamza Husain emerged with a victory to clinch the Group 3 state title.

"I'm dead tired," Husain said after his three-set victory provided the decisive point in Moorestown's 3-2 triumph over Demarest on Wednesday.

The state title was Moorestown's 13th in 40 seasons under coach Bill Kingston and the Quakers' first since 2008.

"These are hard to get," said Kingston, who was overcome with emotion when his team clinched the crown. "When you work as hard as these guys worked to get this one, it makes it all the more special."

It was a gut-check of a day for the Quakers (28-5), who battled through two tight matches as temperatures rose to near 90 degrees at the Tennis Center at Mercer County Park.

In the semifinals, sophomore No. 1 singles Ryan Dickerson clinched a 3-2 victory over Hopewell Valley with a three-set triumph.

"You couldn't have scripted it any better," Kingston said. "Both matches were 3-2, both went down to the third set in the final match."

With the semifinal tied at 2-2, Dickerson rallied from a 0-1 deficit in the third set, winning six straight games to defeat Hopewell Valley senior Kenny Zheng, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, to send the Quakers into the state finals.

The match took around two hours and 40 minutes, and Dickerson was mobbed by his teammates after an emphatic overhead smash for the final point.

"This is his team, and he came through big-time," Kingston said of Dickerson.

In the title match, Dickerson and No. 2 singles Tyler Blessing won in straight sets.

But Demarest won both doubles matches, which meant that the state title would be decided by the third singles competition.

"I definitely felt the pressure," said Husain, the No. 3 singles player.
Husain lost the first set to Demarest's Brandon Buksbaum. Husain also lost the first set in the semifinals, but rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

"I had to change my approach," Husain said of the final. "I was trying for too many winners. I had to be more patient."

The match was played during the hottest time of the day, in a blazing sun. During change-overs, Moorestown assistant coach Steve Dickerson, Ryan's father, would drape a wet towel over Husain's head, and put ice bags on his head and stomach.

Husain went through three shirts -- from gold to black to gold again -- in an effort to stay comfortable.

"It was like heaven," Husain said of the ice bags.

Husain dominated the second two sets, winning the match by a score of 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Like Dickerson after the semifinal match, Husain was mobbed by his teammates after his victory.

"It was character and guts," Kingston said of Husain's performance. "I can't say enough about him."


Shawnee falls in Group 4: Junior No. 1 singles Justin Kang split his match but the Renegades dropped a 4 1/2-1/2 decision to undefeated Montgomery in the 4 state semifinals.

"We were here last year and we lost five kids from that team," Shawnee coach Jim Baker said after his team finished with a 20-2 record. "Now we'll have five players back from this year's team, so we've turned that around.

"These guys worked hard and they kept working hard all season long."


Haddonfield loses in Group 2: Sophomore second singles Tommy Dodson and junior third singles Isaac Anderson split their matches but the Bulldogs lost by 4-1 to Holmdel in the state semifinals.

Haddonfield finished 31-6 despite losing second singles player Mike Alberto for the season to an ankle injury in mid-April.

"We played tough competition to try to get better and prepare for this level," Haddonfield coach Jeff Holman said. "They (Holmdel) were just a little better than us."

Haddonfield shoud return five of its top seven next season.

"I saw a lot of growth in this team this year," Holman said.


Haddon Heights falls in Group 1: Third singles John Booker and the second doubles team of Chris Iacono and Josh Booker, John's brother, scored victories but Haddon Heights dropped a 3-2 decision to Highland Park in the state semifinals.

Haddon Heights senior No. 1 James Hicks dropped a 6-0, 6-2 decision to Maverick Lin, the No. 1 seed in the state singles tournament.

"There was no pressure," Hicks said of playing Lin. "It was pretty fun. I could hit with him."

Haddon Heights finished 19-4 and captured the program's first sectional title since 1974.

"It was a year to remember," Hicks said.

Group 3 state finals

Moorestown 3, Demarest 2

Ryan Dickerson, M, d. Mike Rozenvasser, 6-1, 6-0; Tyler Blessing, M, d. Ezra Oliff-Lieberm, 6-2, 6-0; Hamza Husain, M, d. Brandon Buksbaum, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; Alex Sheinman and Dylan Field, D, d. Jacob Fox and Pete Nicholson, 2-6, 6-2, 7-5; Mitch Sapiro and Jeff Holzer, D, d. Skyler Bobadilla and Alex Epstein, 6-3, 6-1.

Group 4 state finals

Millburn 3, Montgomery 2

Group 2 state finals

Holmdel 4, Bernards 1

Group 1 state finals

New Providence 3, Highland Park 2

Non-Public A state finals

Christian Brothers 4, Don Bosco 1

Non-Public B state finals
Newark Academy 5, Gill St. Bernard's 0

Group 3 state semifinals

Moorestown 3, Hopewell Valley 2

Ryan Dickerson, M, d. Kenny Zheng, 64, 4-6, 6-1; Trevor Johnson, HV, d. Tyler Blessing, 7-6 (5), 7-5; Hamza Husain, M, d. Alex Ochalski, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3; Jacob Fox and Pete Nicholson, M, d. Laurent Guenin and Russell Nicholson, 7-6 (4), 7-5; Roger Toussaint and Andreas Vermeulen, HV, d. Skylar Bobadilla and Alex Epstein, 6-3, 6-4.

Group 4 state semifinals

Montgomery 4 1/2, Shawnee 1/2

Justin Kang, S, split with Chris D'Agostino, 3-6, 5-3; Kevin Xu, M, d. Eric Tecce, 6-3, 6-1; Ben Eckart, M, d. Luke Snyder, 6-3, 6-1; Clark Chapman and Alessandro Salapari, M, d. Jon Falcone and Chris Machuzak, 6-0, 6-1; Eric Epp and Howard Bi, M, d. Andrew Corwin and Connor Baechler, 6-1, 6-4.

Group 2 state semifinals

Holmdel 4, Haddonfield 1

Mike Chen, Hol, d. Max Oberholtzer, 6-0, 6-4; Derek Liu, Hol, split with Tommy Dodson, 6-2, 4-3; Juan Alvarado, Hol, split with Isaac Anderson, 6-4, 4-4; Sam Johnson and Ethan Wong, Hol, d. Sam Oberholtzer and Joey Moramarco, 7-5, 6-4; Dennis Barlotta and David Lin, Hol, d. Charlie Carr and Grayson Kohs, 6-1, 6-0.

Group 1 state semifinals

Highland Park 3, Haddon Heights 2

Maverik Lin, HP, d. James Hicks, 6-0, 6-2; Thulani Hove, HP, d. Andrew Hicks, 6-1, 6-2; John Booker, HH, d. Daniel Zendrejas, 6-1, 6-2; Yang Xu and Jacob Choi, HP, d. Kyle Berner and Vinny Calla, 6-4, 6-0; Chris Iacono and Josh Booker, HH, d. Joon Ko and Boning Zhao, 6-1, 6-3.

Contact Phil Anastasia at Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.