The McNair Academic girls’ tennis team was battling Rutherford for a slice of history.
The NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II championship was at stake Monday afternoon and the Cougars were trying to become the first Jersey City school ever to win a state championship and only the second team in Hudson County history.
The Cougars were tied, 2-2, going into the second doubles match.
It meant that the state title came down to a doubles team comprised of a girl who was playing her first year of tennis anywhere and another who had only two years of experience.
Sophomore Therese Villa never played tennis at all prior to joining the McNair squad this fall. Her only previous experience was a clinic in Lincoln Park when she was in fourth grade.
“I wanted to do a sport and I thought tennis would be fun,” Villa said. “I worked really hard to learn the sport. I had a lot of dedication to the team.”
Junior Anjeleen Lozcano joined the Cougars two years ago because her older sister, Allyssa, was on the team.
“She said she had a lot of fun, so I wanted to join as well,” Lozcano said. “I really had to learn fast. I went from hitting the ball against a wall over and over to being on the second doubles team.”
Villa and Lozcano had never played together prior to the beginning of the current season and here they were, fighting their hearts out to create history.
In the third and deciding set, Villa and Lozcano trailed, 5-1. They were one game away from falling short of their dream.
But the Cougar doubles team rallied to tie the set at 6-6, then captured the tiebreaker to win the deciding game and set, 7-6.
With that, the Cougars brought home the state sectional title.
“We made history,” Villa said. “That’s something really big.”
“I never really expected it,” Lozcano said. “It feels really amazing. I think it was because we really believed in ourselves. That made a difference and pulled us to win every single point. It’s way too amazing for words.”
McNair Academic became the first Hudson County girls’ tennis team to win a state sectional title since Emerson of Union City did it in 1978. History indeed.
“I’m extremely proud,” said McNair Academic head coach Alex Taunean. “I feel the maximum amount of pride anyone could feel. They had belief in themselves. We started working in the summer and started from scratch with some of them. They worked hard, listened to details and this is the result. It’s unbelievable. I’m overwhelmed with joy that we were able to bring this honor back to McNair Academic and Jersey City.”
County singles champion Christian Resurreccion won her match in straight sets, 6-1, 6-3, and the Cougars’ first doubles team of Lauren Russell and Ally Valde also won, coming back after losing the first set to win the next two in clutch fashion…
The Lincoln High School football team had a statement victory last weekend, defeating Hoboken, 28-7, to improve to 5-0 this season.
The Lions held the high-powered Red Wings to just 132 yards of total offense.
“Any time you can win a game against a school that has dominated the public schools for the last 20 years is a huge win,” Lincoln head coach Robert Hampton said. “I can’t say enough about Hoboken’s tradition. It’s always been a struggle just to play with them. It’s been a one-sided rivalry. Our kids were committed to beating them. All those kids know each other. We executed our game plan.”
Hampton praised his defense, especially junior defensive tackle Daijon Robinson, who has been brilliant all season.
“He’s become one of the best linemen in the history of Lincoln,” Hampton said of Robinson. “He’s dominating everyone. The kid’s a stud. He’s the best Lincoln lineman since Willie Young [1971 through 1975], who went on to play at Nebraska. Willie Young has been the standard bearer at Lincoln all these years. Daijon is right there. He’s our leader.”
Another standout has been defensive end Caleb Hebron, who had three sacks and blocked a punt in the win over Hoboken. Taiquan Simmons had an interception return for a touchdown.
It was a win that helped Lincoln gain credibility throughout the state.
“We’re used to people questioning our wins,” Hampton said. “We’re trying to get state recognition, but this was a win for the streets. It gave us street credibility. Hudson County kids can look at Lincoln and say, ‘Hey, they’re pretty good.’”
The Lions are certainly pretty good. They currently sit atop the power point standings in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II bracket with 71 points. It’s not known when the last time a Jersey City public school was the top seed in the state playoffs…
Two local standouts received big time college offers last week. St. Peter’s Prep do-everything Minkah Fitzpatrick was offered by Notre Dame, while Union City standout lineman Steven Gonzalez was presented with a scholarship offer from Ohio State…
Here are some of the best rushing yardage totals from last week. Jonathan Hilliman of Prep, this week’s Athlete of the Week, tops the locals with 191 yards on 18 carries and four touchdowns. Brandonlee Diaz of North Bergen collected 183 yards on 12 attempts and scored one TD. Devell Jones of Lincoln continued his fine season with 153 yards and a score. Prep quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who mentioned last week that he preferred to remain in the pocket, rushed seven times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Union City…
Interesting setting will take place this weekend, when St. Anthony travels to JFK Stadium in Hoboken, marking the first time that Hoboken coaching legend Ed Stinson returns to his old stomping grounds, coaching the Friars on the opposite sidelines…
In cross country, Secaucus swept both the boys’ and girls’ championships at the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Meadowlands Division at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park.
In the girls’ race, Mehek Parikh finished fourth to pace the Patriots. In the boys’ race, Sondy Polanco, Sean Jeffas and Shawn O’Brien finished 2-3-4 to lead the Patriots…
At the Jersey City championships, Jimmy Sause of St. Peter’s Prep set a new school record with a time of 16:10 at Lincoln Park, pacing the Marauders to the team crown. In the girls’ race, Brittany Gibson of McNair Academic won in 19:03. St. Dominic Academy won the team title, with Emily Mernar as the Blue Devils’ top finisher…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Football Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (6-0). 2. Lincoln (5-0). 3. Union City (3-2). 4. Secaucus (4-1). 5. Hoboken (3-2)…
Hudson Reporter H.S. Soccer Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (11-2-1). 2. Memorial (10-4). 3. North Bergen (6-8). 4. Union City (4-7-1). 5. Hoboken (7-5)…--Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.