Friday started out foggy and drizzly, but by late afternoon the sun was glinting off the NJSIAA Group 3 championship trophy that Millburn High School's varsity tennis team had earned by defeating first Moorestown High School and then Hopewell Valley High School in tournament play at Mercer County Park. It was the fourth such championship in a row for Millburn.
The triumph vaults the team into the Tournament of Champions, along with five other group winners, the presumptive six best teams in the state. Millburn has won the honor 21 times, second only behind Christian Brothers Academy, which has 24 group titles.
In the semifinal match Friday morning, against highly ranked Moorestown, Millburn's reliable first doubles team of Mac Johnson and Jared Wishnow, the top-seeded team in the upcoming state doubles tournament, handily defeated Hamza Husain and Dan Schafhauser 6-1, 6-1 for the first Millburn point.
The next point belonged to Miller second doubles Nicky Chen-Schmidt and Teddy Moskovitz, who beat Peter Nicholson and Zach Morrow 6-3, 6-1.
Moorestown received its first point by forfeit, when second singles Rob Xie retired from his match with Pierce Cooper.
Millburn won the match when third singles Dean Koman defeated Tyler Blessing 6-3, 6-2 for a third Miller point.
With the match decided, first singles Tyler Schick and his opponent Ryan Dickerson called it a draw, with Dickerson having won the first set 6-3 and Schick up 3-1 in the second. Each player thus earned half a point for his team.
The final score: Millburn 3.5, Moorestown 1.5.
By the time the finals began, the sun was hot and strong. Hopewell Valley HS, in Pennington, had defeated Tenafly High School in the semis to earn its berth opposite Millburn.
In this championship round, the Miller doubles teams again scored the first two team points. Johnson and Wishnow beat Trevor Johnson and Russell Nicholson 6-2, 6-2, and Chen-Schmidt and Moskovitz defeated Laurent Guenin and Alex Ochalski 6-1, 6-3.
The trophy was won when Koman closed out his match against Ahmed Al-Shawafi 6-1, 6-4.
At that point, the two top singles players, Schick and Xie, agreed to draws with their opponents, each scoring half a point for the team.
The final score: Millburn 4, Hopewell Valley 1.
The Millers' overall record stands at 25-2.
The post-season team matches come to a close next week with the Tournament of Champions. Last year, Millburn's run ended in the semifinals of the TOC. The Millers have taken home the top prize five times since 1950.