Chris Eng went from novice to champion, in just a matter of months.
The Williamstown High School junior, a newcomer to tennis, captured the doubles title at the Gloucester County Tournament last weekend with his partner, senior Brandon Neyra. The Braves’ No. 1 team defeated Pitman’s No. 1 duo of sophomores Aiden Hausmann and Chase Rollins in the final, 6-4, 6-3.
It is the first doubles crown for the program since 2016.
“I’ve only been playing tennis for four months so I didn’t know what to expect (at the tournament),” Eng said. “Brandon has been a great mentor to me and has shown me how to play doubles. We didn’t know what to think but it turned out we got the results. “
Eng has an athletic background but zero experience in tennis. He was recruited to help out the Braves after they graduated three starters from last year.
“My friends told me, ‘We need people on the tennis team,’” Eng said. “So I was like, ‘OK, sure, I’ll try it out.’ It turns out I really like it.
“I’m a soccer player and I used to play soccer year-round my entire life. Now after injuries my junior year, I started to play other sports and tennis was something I wanted to try. I was taking private lessons and at the start, I guess you could say I was above average. I had never picked up a racket before, I just started playing with friends. I’ll see what happens but I think I’ll stick with it. “
While Eng is quick to credit his partner for his leadership, Neyra doesn’t think he’s had much to do with his early success.
“I’ve tried to help him with his net game,” he said. “I think his serves of him and his baseline of him have just been natural. Toward the net, I’ve been trying to guide him where to hit, how to hit, how hard. Overall he’s been a visual learner and I haven’t really had to teach him much. “
Eng and Neyra suffered their first loss together on Monday in a close match against Millville’s Russell Corson and Nicolas Meehan. They are 10-1 overall counting their 4-0 mark at the county tournament.
One of those victories came in the semifinals as they knocked off Kingsway’s top-seeded team of Jack Arena and Nikit Chhita 7-5, 6-3. That ended the Dragons’ run of four straight county doubles titles and it was especially meaningful to Neyra.
“We were the one seed last year and we got upset, so I came in here with a vengeance and we both came out on top,” he said. “We lost to Kingsway’s two in three sets at Clearview – Jack beat me last year so I wanted to come back and beat him.
“We were aware that they were the favorites coming into this, but we were prepared to play them. I personally didn’t face their first dubs (in the regular season) this year so I was excited to get a chance. “
Neyra missed Williamstown’s 5-0 loss to Kingsway on April 8 but is looking forward to the rematch on May 10. The Braves hope to be battling the Dragons for a share of the Tri-County Conference Royal Division that day.
Williamstown is 7-2 overall and 3-1 in the Royal.
“We lost a lot of seniors and I was a bit skeptical coming into the year, but seeing how Chris has played and how everyone else has played, it’s been great,” Neyra said. “I think the (7-2) record is well deserved.”
BRIGHT SPOT: Timber Creek has won two in a row after an 0-7 start, defeating Triton and GCIT at home. While the team is making progress, junior first singles Christopher Satya has been steady all season, as evidenced by his 8-1 record.
Satya is in his second season in the top spot and owns impressive wins over West Deptford’s Nate Bassett – the recently crowned Gloucester County champion – as well as Kingsway’s Kyle Kirwin. His only loss of him came to Clearview’s Nanda Guntupalli in a match that came down to a tiebreaker.
MATCH OF THE WEEK: West Deptford will host Cumberland on Friday in an interesting non-league match. The Eagles are coming off a memorable weekend in which they earned a share of the team championship with Kingsway at the Gloucester County Tournament. It was their first title since 2016.
West Deptford has won four straight matches and is 7-2 overall, with the only losses coming to Colonial Conference rivals Haddonfield and Haddon Township. Bassett, the Eagles’ sophomore first singles, and senior second singles Matt Connelly took first and third, respectively, at the county tournament.
Cumberland is 7-1, with the only blemish coming against Kingsway. First singles Samuel Falk is 8-0 and his match di lui against Bassett should be an entertaining one between super sophomores.
The NJ High School Sports newsletter is now appearing in mailboxes 5 days a week. Sign up now and be among the first to get all the boys and girls sports you care about, straight to your inbox each weekday. To add your name, click here.