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Boys' tennis season in review

The 2009 boys' tennis season provided players, coaches and fans with plenty of action this year. Here is a look back at a season to remember:

Cherry Hill East's Ross Silverberg was the team's No. 1 singles player as a senior, going 28-5. In four years, he won 120 matches.
Cherry Hill East's Ross Silverberg was the team's No. 1 singles player as a senior, going 28-5. In four years, he won 120 matches.Read moreAKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer

The 2009 boys' tennis season provided players, coaches and fans with plenty of action this year. Here is a look back at a season to remember:

Player of the year: Nikola Kocovic, junior, Lenape

When Lenape clinched the first sectional title in the history of the program, Nikola Kocovic wasn't on the court.

But he was making the most noise.

"Did you hear who yelled the loudest?" Lenape coach Tony Guerrera said after the Indians' 3-2 victory over six-time defending champion Cherry Hill East in the South Jersey Group 4 finals.

Kocovic wasn't on the court because he had won his match in typical fashion - quickly and in straight sets. But the junior was celebrating with the rest of the Indians when second singles' Mike Humes clinched the team title.

"The reason I played high school tennis is for the team aspect," Kocovic said. "I love being part of the team."

Kocovic went 33-1 this season. Until a 7-5, 7-5 loss to Ocean Township senior Mike Lampa in the semifinals of the state singles' tournament, Kocovic did not lose a set in high school tennis.

Lampa ended up winning the state singles title. That's Kocovic's goal for next season.

Kocovic is 6-foot-2 but covers the court like a smaller player. His game is built on power and aggression, and he consistently attacks the net.

"He's so quick that he gets to everything," Guerrera said. "He's deceptively fast. Players hit shots that they think are winners, and he gets to them and blows it by them."

Doubles team of the year: John Pontillo, senior, and Mike Bass, junior, Moorestown

All top tennis players are good athletes.

John Pontillo and Mike Bass are top athletes who also play tennis.

"That's our whole approach," Pontillo said. "We're not strictly tennis players like a lot of players that you see out here. We're athletes first. We try to use that to our advantage."

Pontillo and Bass were members of the Moorestown soccer team that won the South Jersey Group 3 title in the fall. Pontillo plans to play soccer at Swarthmore College, while Bass still has another season on the soccer field for the Quakers.

On the tennis court, Pontillo and Bass made hay this season with aggressive, athletic play. They weren't fancy, but they covered the court, took chances, and worked well together.

"We would try to surprise teams in the first set," Bass said. "They wouldn't be used to the way we would play."

Pontillo and Bass went 32-1 this season. Before a straight-set loss to Westfield's top team in the semifinals of the state doubles tournament, the Moorestown duo lost just two sets all season.

"It was a great year," Pontillo said.

Special seniors

Moorestown is a top team every year. The Quakers will reload again next season behind Bass, fellow junior Brandon Greenwood, and sophomore Matt Holzinger, as well as several other talented young players.

But Quakers coach Bill Kingston knows he's losing a special senior class.

Over the last four seasons, Moorestown won four South Jersey Group 3 titles and two state Group 3 titles. The Quakers went 115-17 playing one of the toughest schedules in the state.

The Quakers were 23-3 this season. They fell just short of another state Group 3 crown, losing, 3-2, to eventual champion Millburn in the semifinals.

"These players liked each other, and they supported each other," Kingston said of his seniors. "They pushed each other and accepted lineup positions without complaint because for them the team came first."

First singles' T.J. Riley finished this season with a 27-8 record. He was 104-19 in his career. Second singles' Gabe Allen, a four-year varsity player, was 24-3 this season and 109-25 in his career.

Pontillo was 32-1 at doubles this season and 87-11 in his career. Mike DeAngelis was 20-3 at doubles this season and 71-12 in his career.

"They are right up there with the best groups I have coached," Kingston said.

The journey

Cherry Hill East senior Ross Silverberg said the Cougars "made it about the journey this season."

That was true for team. It was true for Silverberg, too.

Silverberg was one of the few athletes to play four seasons of singles for Cherry Hill East, one of the strongest programs in the state. He was the Cougars' No. 1 singles player as a senior, going 28-5.

For his career, Silverberg won 120 matches for a program that captured three South Jersey Group 4 titles.

"When his career was over, I shook his hand and told him he would be the next name to go into our tennis Hall of Fame," Cherry Hill East coach Ralph Ipri said.

Ipri said that in addition to being a strong player, Silverberg displayed outstanding leadership this season as team captain.

Silverberg said the Cougars were disappointed to lose to Lenape in the South Jersey finals but focused on the positive aspects of the season.

"We wanted to win," Silverberg said. "But we had great team chemistry this season, the best we had in my four years. For me as captain, that was very rewarding."

All-South Jersey

Selected by South Jersey Tennis Coaches Association.

Singles: Nikola Kocovic, junior, Lenape

Singles: Ross Silverberg, senior, Cherry Hill East

Singles: Chas Berenato, junior, St. Augustine

Singles: Keith Goldstein, senior, Egg Harbor Twp.

Singles: T.J. Riley, senior, Moorestown

Singles: Gabe Allen, senior, Moorestown

Singles: Mike Humes, sophomore, Lenape

Doubles: John Pontillo, senior, and Mike Bass, junior, Moorestown

Doubles: Mike DeAngelis, senior, and Matt Holzinger, sophomore, Moorestown

Doubles: Aidan Kaye, sophomore, and Matt Monroe, freshman, St. Augustine