The Marlboro High School boys’ tennis players really wanted to douse their coach, Dave Kretzmer, with cold water.
They were all grinning at the mere thought of seeing Kretzmer recoil from a Niagara Falls of Deer Park water bottles.
After all, they had just won the Shore Conference Tournament championship with a 5-0 victory over Holmdel High School, the defending tournament champion. And showering your coach with discomfort is how you celebrate such important triumphs.
Only unlike most athletes, who usually just dump water or Gatorade on their unsuspecting coach, the Mustangs actually asked Kretzmer if he would like a shower.
“Do you want to get wet, coach?” asked a smiling Eitan Khromchenko, Marlboro’s junior top singles player, as he stood at the entrance to the courts at Park Avenue Tennis Center in Oakhurst.
“No way guys,” Kretzmer said. “I don’t want to have to change my clothes.”
With that, Kretzmer spoke up for coaches across America, who love winning championships but deep down despise the cold shower that comes after. But he was also still coaching. In implying that his players shouldn’t celebrate a conference title too much, Kretzmer was reminding his Mustangs to stay focused.
They are still a long way from the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions starting May 28 at Mercer County Park in West Windsor.
If you asked most pundits, too, they wouldn’t predict Marlboro to even get out of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament field. Central Jersey, Group 4 is loaded, especially with undefeated and mighty Montgomery High School at the top.
Montgomery won the last two Tournament of Champions state titles.
So Kretzmer was happy after the Shore Conference championship, but he was also barely smiling.
“It feels…good?” Kretzmer said, his voice rising. “But there’s a lot left to do.”
That’s true. But there is also no reason why Marlboro can’t rise to Montgomery’s level.
Kretzmer’s lineup is loaded.
That was never more evident than in the Shore Conference title match, when the Mustangs made Holmdel, the defending Group 2 champion, which has six starters back from 2018, look like a team that was lucky to be there.
Khromchenko won 6-2, 6-1 at first singles. Junior Larry Wang triumphed 6-0, 6-1 at third singles. Kretzmer’s doubles teams, sophomores Frank Liu and Anirudh Singh at first doubles and sophomore Siddhant Shah/freshman Sadhista Linga at second doubles, also polished off their opponents in straight sets.
Only Marlboro’s No. 2 singles player, sophomore Vasista Linga, needed three sets to win against Holmdel, but he still owns a 9-1 record in 2019. He is one of the best players in central New Jersey.
“We’re talented,” Khromchenko said.
“The (Shore Conference) title gives us a lot of confidence,” Wang added.
The last time the Mustangs won the Shore Conference, in 2017, they bowed out in the Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional final to state power West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South. Marlboro barely competed in that match, losing 5-0.
“We were mesmerized by West Windsor two years ago,” Kretzmer said. “We didn’t rise to the occasion.”
These Mustangs probably will not fall into that trap. The Shore Conference championship showed they don’t care about their opponent’s pedigree.
“I’d love to see this team just go compete, and rise to the level I know we can play at,” Kretzmer said.
“Then I’ll be happy,” he added.