Demarest wins sectional semifinal over Pascack Hills by Bob Schwalb special to The Record
DEMAREST – With the electronic sign in front of NV/Demarest reading 98 degrees, the Norseman boys tennis team won its state sectional semifinal against Pascack Hills on Thursday.
Ironically, snow may have been the reason why.
“Because of all the snow in the preseason, we focused a lot on fitness,” NV/Demarest coach Dave Johnson said. “I think that was the main reason we were able to win this match. We’re definitely in much better shape that we have been in the past.”
On Thursday, the fitness of one particular Norseman – sophomore Justin Kim – was the difference.
In a brutal, three-hour and 15-minute marathon match, Kim outlasted Pascack Hills’ James Robinson on the second-singles court. Kim won by scores of 7-6(4), 3-6 and 6-2 to send his team into the NJSIAA North 1, Group 2 finals with a 3-2 win.
“There was a lot of pressure being in the last match,” Kim said. “It was extremely exhausting but I knew if I could take that last set, we’d be in the finals.
“I saw [Robinson] was getting really tired and breaking down. I just tried to keep moving him back and forth so he’d get more tired and I could hit some winners.”
After giving an incredible effort in a losing cause, Robinson admitted he’d run out of gas and said he needed to improve his own fitness level in the future.
“It was a great match but I wasn’t prepared for it,” Robinson said. “I don’t really do that much conditioning and that showed up today. I need to get stronger to beat guys like that.”
While Kim and Robinson were fortunate to play on the only one of NV/Demarest’s five home courts that sits in the shade, Norseman junior Robert Sorkin was not so lucky. He kept his own suffering to a minimum, though, beating Pascack Hills’ third-singles player Nareg Dabaghian 6-2 and 6-2.
“The sun was brutal … I was really feeling it,” Sorkin said. “When I was facing the sun during my serve, I couldn’t serve all out because it’d blind me. I was just hoping his returns wouldn’t be that strong.
“[Dabaghian] was a really good opponent but I guess the wind was on my side and I was able to hit some really good shots.”
Speaking of really good shots, NV/Demarest freshman first-singles ace Carlos Vasquez hit plenty of those as he cruised past a feisty Matthew Wang, 6-1 and 6-2. The Bergen County Tournament’s large-school runner-up at first singles will be counted on for a point when the Norsemen face Tenafly in next Monday’s final.
Johnson hopes his team continues its trend of winning sectional championships every two years as the Norsemen won titles in 2013 and 2015. He’s hoping a different trend doesn’t continue as Tenafly beat NV/Demarest in last year’s sectional finals, 3-2, and beat the Norsemen in two regular-season matches this spring by the same score.
“We always have close matches … usually a 3-2 outcome of some kind,” Johnson said.
“We’ll probably have another one but hopefully it goes our way this time.”