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Lenape tennis ace Kocovic falls in state singles match

WEST WINDSOR, N. J. – Nikola Kocovic tried everything.

WEST WINDSOR, N. J. – Nikola Kocovic tried everything.

The Lenape senior tried spinning his serve to his opponent's backhand.

He tried changing the pace and placement of his ground strokes.

He tried reaching deep into his bag of tennis tricks.

But in the last match of his illustrious career, Kocovic couldn't find a consistent counter to the power and precision of Michael Lippens' forehand and first serve.

"He deserved to win," a gracious Kocovic said after Lippens won the state singles title Thursday with a 6-2, 6-3 victory at Mercer County Park.

Lippens, a junior from Shore Regional, completed a perfect season with a 26-0 record.

Kocovic, who plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania, finished his senior season with a 37-1 record. Kocovic was 70-2 in his final two seasons, with both losses to the eventual singles champion – to Ocean Township's Mike Lampa in the semifinals in 2009 and to Lippens in a briskly-played match on the outdoor stadium court.

"That was the two best players in the state out there," Lenape coach Tony Guerrera said. "Credit to Mike Lippens. His forehand is quite a weapon. Nik couldn't figure it out."

Lippens set the tone in the first game, winning the first four points on his serve to take a 1-0 lead. Kocovic held his serve for two games, but Lippens got a break in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead.

That was part of a decisive run in which Lippens won five consecutive games to capture the first set and take a 1-0 lead in the second set.

"When I got that (break), it really calmed my nerves," Lippens said. "I tried to play with big energy, play my big game."

Kocovic had a couple of good chances to get back in the match in the second set. He had a triple-break point in the fifth game, and another break point in the seventh game.

But each time, Lippens used his powerful serve and even more imposing forehand to battle back and win the game.

"Every time I needed a shot, I missed it," Kocovic said. "I didn't play my best but he wouldn't let me play my best. He has a really good forehand and he didn't miss many with his first serve."

Most of the Lenape team and several other Lenape students made the trip to support Kocovic in his quest to become the school's first singles champion. Kocovic finished his career with a 126-8 record.

"We'll never replace him," Guerrera said of Kocovic. "Nik is a champion, too."