Leonia tennis coach Matt Wind knew he would have a deep lineup this year with four players returning from last year’s sectional-semifinal team.
But even he was surprised when the team’s challenge matches began this spring.
The Lions got key wins from freshman Will Persson at second singles, Andy Lee at third and the first doubles team of Dean Gabay and John Watson on the way to a 5-0 victory over rival Palisades Park on Thursday.
“Our second, third and first doubles clinched the win,” Wind said after the Lions improved to 3-0.
That’s going to be a key for the Lions this season as they set their sights on winning their first league title since 1995.
Ricky Davidson, who played second singles behind Lee last year and has been playing first singles at the start of this season, still needs to face Persson in a challenge match today to decide who will play No. 1.
Lee is set at third singles, giving the Lions a huge advantage in the middle of their lineup.
“Having a former No. 1 facing a No. 3 in this league is huge,” Wind said. “Our first doubles is also strong. But they’re still learning how to work together.”
Lee beat Palisades Park’s Mike Manashirov, 6-1, 6-0, and Gabay and Watson also won in straight sets over Patrick and Kevin Lee at first doubles, 6-2, 6-4.
Davidson came back after dropping the first set at first singles to beat John Suh, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, and Persson beat Mate Pavin, 6-3, 6-0, at second. June Park and Evan Abouaf capped the win with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Kevin Han and Hank Lee at second doubles.
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