Tennis

Absegami’s Austin Snyder is The Press Boys Tennis Player of The Year

Absegami's Austin Snyder is The Press Boys Tennis Player of The Year

Austin Snyder wanted to build off his successful freshman campaign from 2019 and make up for time lost last year.

This season, the Absegami High School boys tennis standout accomplished that and more.

Snyder finished his junior season with an individual record of 23-3 and became the first in program history to win the Cape-Atlantic League singles title. The Galloway Township resident also advanced to the semifinals of the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships singles tournament.

Snyder is the 2021 Press Boys Tennis Player of The Year.

“It was a great year,” Snyder said. “I played really well. I just played my style. I did well.”

Winning the CAL title and competing in the SJIC tournament were some of his favorite memories this season. But having a season and winning matches with his teammates were just as special, Snyder said.

Snyder’s performance at first singles was crucial for the Braves, who finished 9-7 and advanced to the South Jersey Group III quarterfinals.

“Obviously, having a player like Austin, it forces everyone on the team to get better, getting to play against a player of his caliber every day,” Absegami coach Zach Mack said. “And I think it also gives the team confidence going into every match, because they know what he brings to the court every day.

“It motivates them to know we are in every single match no matter who we are playing.”

Coming off a solid freshman season but not having a sophomore campaign, Mack was interested to see if Snyder would pick up where he left off.

“He had improved so much,” Mack said. “He really took that year (off due to the COVID-19 pandemic canceling the 2020 spring season) to work on aspects of his game that needed to get better.”

Snyder went to the CAL semifinals as a freshman. He won all of his regular-season matches this year.

“He is a far improved player from what he was as a freshman,” Mack added.

Snyder proved he is one of the best singles players in the CAL and South Jersey. Now, he wants that to continue as a senior in 2022.

One of his goals next season is to advance further in the individual state tournament. He drew one of the top-seeded players in the state earlier this month in Sebastian Wroe of Westfield, losing in the first round 4-6, 6-1, (10-5).

“Hopefully (his senior season is) better than this year,” Snyder said. “I want to keep getting better and better.

If Snyder continues with his “upward trajectory,” he will greatly improve because “he is competitive with some of the best players in the state,” Mack said.

Snyder is very adaptive and has all types of plans going into each match if one doesn’t work, which is special in a high school athlete, Mack said.

“One thing that impresses me the most with him is his maturity in on-the-court situations,” Mack said. “Coaching him is so easy because when kids make a mistake, they look at you and say ‘what do I need to fix.’

“With (Snyder) it’s always more of a conversation. He says ‘this is what I need to improve, what do you think?’ He’s very reflective within a match on how he can improve.”

Team and Coach of the Year

Mainland Regional featured five juniors and one sophomore in its seven-athlete (three singles and two doubles teams) starting lineup.

Only two of those juniors competed at the varsity level as freshmen in 2019.

That did not stop the Mustangs from having an incredible campaign.

Mainland (17-1) went undefeated against Cape-Atlantic League opponents, winning the CAL National Division. The Mustangs advanced to the South Jersey Group III final, suffering their only loss of the season to Moorestown.

With a young group, coach Chris Connolly led his two doubles teams — juniors Aaryan Deshpande and Jack Palaia, and Evan Himmelstein and Joe Dib— to the CAL Tournament finals.

Mainland is the Team of the Year, and Connolly is the Coach of the Year.

“I’m just grateful to have great kids and great tennis players,” Connolly said. “It was very fun to see them play their game. It was very enjoyable. Very sad that we lost in the (sectional) final, but I was very happy and proud of our guys with their effort throughout the season.”

The Mustangs will only graduate Daniel Wise, who was their first singles player. The senior finished the regular season and playoffs with an individual record of 14-5. Michael Walton, a junior, and Alex Wise, a sophomore and Daniel’s younger brother, were solid at second and third singles.

With that trio, plus the doubles teams, Mainland will be a threat in the CAL and South Jersey next season.

Connolly has led Mainland to the sectional finals six times out of his 13 years with the program, winning it twice.

“We always want to compete and win as many matches as we can and hopefully win the conference and go to the South Jersey final,” Connolly said. “It’s a goal we have every year, but to see us do it this year, and being undefeated for most of the season, I have to say it was a pleasant surprise. … I have to give the credit to the boys.

“We can kind of build on what we have for next year and do better,” Connolly said. “I’ve been coaching tennis for a long time, and this team was very special.

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