WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - In his mind, Moorestown tennis coach Bill Kingston has built the ideal doubles team.
One guy is an emotional big hitter. The other is cool and calm between the ears, and consistent between the lines.
"You want them to play off each other," Kingston said. "But it doesn't always work out that way."
Kingston never creates the perfect doubles team. But he always manages to develop successful ones.
On a windy, rainy and seemingly endless day at Mercer County Park, Moorestown kept one tradition alive and well in the NJSIAA state team tennis championships.
The Quakers once again flexed their muscles at doubles to beat North Jersey I champion Northern Highlands, 4-1, in the Group 3 state semifinals yesterday afternoon.
Moorestown, the defending state champion, will face longtime rival Millburn in the state finals, which were postponed to this morning at 10 because rain delays cut into court availability at the tennis center.
"Coach Kingston said to us right at the beginning of the season that Moorestown is known for doubles," sophomore second-doubles player Brandon Greenwood said after teaming with sophomore Mike Bass to defeat Northern Highlands' Jake Walpert and Alex Chin, 6-2, 7-5. "Especially second doubles."
Team tennis is an egalitarian sport: The strongest No. 1 singles can help his squad only as much as the weakest No. 2 doubles.
Roger Federer could play for Moorestown, or any team, at No. 1 singles. He still could win only one point.
So teams such as Moorestown win sectional title after sectional title, and make noise at the state level year after year because of their depth and balance. Translation: They have great doubles teams, season after season.
"We've had some top singles players," Kingston said. "But we've been known as a team with a lot of balance, a lot of good players. We've had good doubles teams for a long time, and that's served us well.
"We always stress good doubles play, all the way through the program. I can't tell you how many years in a row we've won the South Jersey 'B' doubles tournament."
Doubles tennis is great theater, featuring far more action than singles and more noise, too: It's not uncommon for a doubles player to scream, "Let's go!" after a winning point and to loudly encourage his partner during crucial moments in the match.
But in a team sport, the doubles action counts just as much as the singles play.
"We always feel like doubles is very important," said Moorestown first-doubles player John Pontillo, a junior who teamed with classmate Mike DeAngelis to score a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Northern Highlands' highly touted tandem of David Reyneke and Alex Ade.
Moorestown has been dominating doubles action in group play for years. Last season, the Quakers lost the No. 1 and No. 2 singles matches in the state finals against Millburn, but still brought home the championship trophy on the strength of a victory at No. 3 singles and a sweep of the doubles play.
Kingston and his players say the key to quality doubles play is simple: teamwork.
"You're going to have ups and downs in the course of a match," DeAngelis said. "The team that sticks together and supports each other is the team that's going to win in the end."
Said Greenwood: "You really depend on each other. You can't get down on the other guy. You have to pick him up when things go wrong."
Support is one thing. Complementing styles is another.
"My serves and John's volleys," DeAngelis said of their winning combination. "You have to have guys who work together."
Pontillo said the best doubles teams are more than the total talent of two individuals.
"It's the whole being more than the sum of the parts," Pontillo said.
Kingston, who has led Moorestown to 11 state titles since 1978, has no template for successful doubles teams. But he does have some ground rules.
"You can't have two hotheads together," he said. "You also really don't want to have two power players together.
"It's best to have one power, one consistent. One guy maybe a little more volatile, the other a calming influence.
"But if you want to give me two great players to put together on a doubles team, we can make that work, too."
It's worked for Kingston and Moorestown.
The Quakers are one step away from another state title, thanks in large part to their ongoing search for that ideal doubles team.