Tuckerton Leader Sports Preview

Coach Has High Hopes for Rebuilding Pinelands Boys Tennis Team

Apr 06, 2018

When the 2017 New Jersey high school boys tennis season opened it was easy to predict the Pinelands Regional squad would put up good numbers.

After all, head coach Brian Jones’ 2016 squad had gone 21-3, captured a Shore Conference B South title, finished third in the tough Ocean County Tournament and reached the finals of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Jersey Group 2 Tournament. Jones also had a lineup loaded with experienced seniors – you had to go all the way to second doubles to find underclassmen.

Last year’s team performed as expected, going 18-4 and once again reaching the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 finals.

In 2018, though, Jones is dealing with an almost totally new deck of cards. His roster has just one senior, Peter Simone. His only varsity starters from last year’s campaign are juniors Andrew Schulz and Arpit Gainder, who formed the 2017 second doubles duo.

They will be joined by a who’s who group of returning players – juniors Samuel Cardillo, Kieran Sundermann, Kevin Watson, and Brian Rood along with sophomore Ryan Skeie – and newcomers Luke Wiatrowski, a junior, and a gaggle of freshmen in Johnny Hart, Carter Mathis, Josh Kline, Gavin Harris and Andrew Jenkins.

Because of this season’s late start (opening day won’t be until April 9 when Pinelands visits Southern Regional) caused by spring break, it isn’t yet clear what Jones’ lineup will be.

“The team is in a rebuilding year,” said the coach. “Five players were graduated last season so we are young and inexperienced.”

You’d figure the veteran coach would tamp down his expectations for his 2018 team. But he’s not.

“Our players are excited and up to the challenge,” said Jones. “I feel we had a good JV team last season and it is their time to shine. Some of these players have been waiting for the opportunity to strike and this is it.”

So Jones’ goals for his young squad are very much the same as they were for last year’s veteran contingent.

“Our goals are,” said the coach, “to win B-South, place in the top three in the Ocean County Tournament, to make a run at the Group 2 South Jersey State Championship, and to do the best we can in the Shore Conference Tournament.”

If you think that outlook must be overly optimistic, consider Pinelands’ record over the course of Jones’ first six years as head coach. The Wildcats went 14-3 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013, 19-3 in 2014, 16-4 in 2015 and, as already mentioned, 21-3 in 2016 and 18-4 in 2017. In other words, this won’t be the first time Jones’ team is in a rebuilding mode, yet it is difficult to find a bump in the Pinelands road.  —R.M.





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