Boys Tennis: Newark Academy beats highly-ranked Green Farms (CT) in NA Invitational final

Newark Academy, No. No. 2 in the NJ.com, won’t be No. 2 for much longer.

The Minutemen dug deep to defeat Green Farms Academy (CT) in the 2022 Newark Academy Invitational Tournament final, 4-1, on Sunday at Newark Academy in Livingston.

Based on UTR, Green Farms is No. No. 5 in the country and Newark Academy is No. 14.

The hosts got a boost as Nick Kotzen, who had been out with an injury, was back at first singles. His only other match this season was in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon against No. 5 Westfield.

Kotzen, last season’s runner-up in the NJSIAA state singles tournament, defeated Julian Wu, 6-0, 6-1. Kotzen’s presence made a huge impact on the court and arguably was a difference against a potent lineup that Green Farms has.

“It was a good one. As a team it was tough early on because I was injured. We’ve had to switch around our doubles lineups a good amount, ”Kotzen said. “We’ve been figuring out what kind of team we wanted to be. Today with me in the lineup, I think we established ourselves. First doubles and second doubles, we feel we are a different team now and a better one.

“Our culture is very good. We get behind each other’s backs and today showed that. We had fun and enjoyed it and we’re happy to win this tournament. We’re now one of the better teams in the country. “

Green Farms, which has a UTR score of 59.78, made the close to two hour trip down, and the Dragons lifted the competition level for the entire tournament.

“For me personally, coming back from injury it was good to play Juju,” Kotzen said. “It was good practice. He’s a great player. This whole week we were super pumped for Sunday even though we respected the teams we had to play beforehand. We knew we had to get through them of course, but we were looking forward to this. They’re a great team and they showed that. They rose our level and they could have beat us. It brought the best out of us for sure. ”

At second singles, Josh Mandelbaum also defeated Miles Kennedy, 6-4, 6-4. Kennedy held a 4-3 lead in the first set, but Mandelbaum came back to win it. In the second set, Mandelbaum was up 4-1 before Kennedy made a charge. But, the sophomore was able to close out his out-of-state foe.

Both first doubles and second doubles went to three sets. The duo of Ethan Polen and Andy Nagpal provided the clinching point for Newark Academy. They defeated Albert Bostoen and Joseph Lublinsky in three sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Once the rest of their teammates started watching them more closely and they realized they had to get the job done to win the tournament, Polen and Nagpal fed off the energy.

“Talking with the coach, there were some major turning points and opportunities on a couple break points. We kind of let them go in the second set, but in the third set, once everybody was watching us, we brought up our energy. It was night and day, ”Nagpal said. “That gave us the confidence. Coach kept telling us to trust ourselves and were just let it rip. We were a lot more aggressive at the net and dropped all the feat. The coach always tells us to be humble, but we feel like we’re the best team in the country. No doubt in my mind. ”

Newark Academy Invitational Tournament trophy and plaques, 2022Chris Nalwasky

Polen and Nagpal teamed up for the first time this weekend, and they believe as they get more comfortable, they can a force to be reckoned with.

“It was great. We’re good friends off the court, so it hasn’t been too hard of a transition, ”Polen said. “Yesterday was our first time playing together so it was a little bumpy, but today I think we played really well and we’re getting used to each other. I think it’ll be a great rest of the year. “

The Minutemen’s second doubles Saif Prabhu and Jean-Luc Marchand also came back to beat Sam Lublinsky and Jack Blitzer in three sets as well, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Green Farms got its win at third singles as Coleman Merce notched a 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) win over Andrew Kotzen. Andrew Kotzen suffered through a bad first set, but played much better and battled hard in the second set. Same goes for second doubles and even first doubles in that third set.

“It speaks to the culture of the team,” Nick Kotzen said. “We were behind and they fought back. Doubles kept their heads in the game. Andy and Ethan stuck to playing aggressively but also smart. Same thing with Saif and Jean-Luc. Andrew fell short but figured it out. He bounced back from a rough first set. I think we all got better as the match went on and we’re all proud of each other. “

Newark Academy, owners of state records for Group titles and Tournament of Champions titles, wants to achieve both again this season just like in 2021. The minutemen know conquering a challenge that Green Farms is a great step. Green Farms beat No. 1-ranked East Brunswick in the semifinals, 3-2.

“Playing a team like Green Farms, they took our East Brunswick which is probably the No. 2 team in the state, ”Nagpal said. “This gives us a confidence boost knowing if we can beat a team like Green Farm 4-1 with our third singles not playing his best tennis, then it gives us confidence if we have to play East Brunswick down the line.”

For Wu, it was somewhat of a homecoming. Wu, who is from New Jersey, played at Tenafly in Bergen County when he was a freshman in 2019 before transferring to Green Farms along with his sister as a sophomore.

“It’s great to be back in Jersey. I was glad we were invited to this tournament, ”Wu said. “I transferred to Green Farms Academy sophomore year. Our team has done well to get to this point. We have a very strong team. We’re really thankful for Newark to invite us for the tournament. It was a great experience.

“Nick’s an amazing player. He’s going to Columbia for a reason. He’s such a nice good kid, too. He has a big serve and a big forehand. I wasn’t able to do much. Hats off to him and the whole NA team. ”

Kotzen beat Wu this time around, but years ago, that wasn’t always the case.

“I’ve known Juju since I was about 12. He used to beat me,” Kotzen said. “I haven’t played him in a while, so it was nice to play him. I always see him at tournaments when we’re traveling. “

Wu and Tenafly didn’t play in the NA Invitational four years ago, but he knows the caliber of Newark Academy and New Jersey tennis as a whole. He was ready and excited, and he told his teammates about the tournament.

“We got the invite pretty early on before the season started in January or so. Once we got the invite, all the players were excited, ”Wu said. “I told them about the tournament. I mean, I didn’t play in it when I was a freshman, but I told them about the level of tennis in New Jersey. We were excited to play here. ”

Newark Academy Invitational 2022

• Tournament Bracket

First Round Results

0-Newark Academy 5, 0-Episcopal (PA) 0 – Box Score
0-Westfield 4, 0-Livingston 1 – Box Score
0-Green Farms (CT) 5, 0-Delbarton 0 – Box Score
0-East Brunswick 4, 0-Millburn 1 – Box Score

Semifinal Round Results

0-Newark Academy 4, 0-Westfield 1 – Box Score
0-Green Farms (CT) 3, 0-East Brunswick 2 – Box Score

Final Round Results

0-Newark Academy 4, 0-Green Farms (CT) 1 – Box Score

NA invitational

Newark Academy Invitational Tournament signage on the fence of one of the tennis courtsChris Nalwasky

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

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