VINELAND — St. Augustine Prep’s Phil Ritchie, the third singles player for the Hermits, won the singles title at the Cape-Atlantic League Boys Tennis Championships on Thursday at Vineland High School.
Ritchie, a junior, defeated sophomore teammate Vince Coiro, the Prep’s No. 1 singles player, for the championship, 6-4, 6-1.
It turns out that wasn’t considered very surprising.
All the top players are talented for St. Augustine, which is 12-0 and ranked No. 2 in The Press Elite 11.
It also wasn’t considered an upset when the St. Augustine’s Casey Burhanna and Conor Franz, the team’s second doubles team, beat the Prep’s first doubles team of Rob Ritchie (Phil’s brother) and Reilly Burhanna (Casey’s brother), 6-3, 6-4.
Phil Ritchie and Coiro were tied 4-4 in the first set, but Ritchie won the set and held the lead in the second set.
Ritchie missed the CAL Tournament and most of the season last year with a broken wrist.
“It’s nice to come back this year and do well,” said Ritchie, a 17-year-old Hammonton resident. “Being a third singles kind of gave me the drive to win it. My plan was to be very consistent. Vince is very good and hits very hard. My plan was to try my best to get every ball back. I thought it would be a much longer match. In the second set the pressure was off because I had won a set, and I played a little more loose.”
One thing that was unusual was the fact each player in the CAL Tournament finals was from the same team, something that event director Tony Formento said had never happened before.
“It’s exciting (to have everyone in the finals on your team),” St. Augustine’s second-year coach Chas Berenato said. “No one graduated last year, and it was a building process. The results today weren’t surprising because on any given day they can beat each other. They’ve been pushing each other the last few weeks. Anyone could have won.”
Berenato said Ritchie works hard at his game.
“Phil spends a lot of time on his own working on his serve,” Berenato said. “He’s really improved from six weeks ago.”
Coiro, who won the CAL doubles title last year, said it was difficult to play a friend.
“We know each other well,” said Coiro, a 16-year-old Mays Landing resident. “I tried to think of it as like any other match. It tried my best but it wasn’t a good day today.
“It’s amazing that everyone in the finals was from our team. That’s a good result for our school and our team.”
The second set of the doubles match was tied at 4-4 and Franz and Casey Burhanna fought off game point twice before winning the game to go up 5-4.
“Casey and I were partners two years ago, and we work really well together,” said Franz, an 18-year-old senior from Medford.
Casey Burhanna said the match seemed like a practice, but that he played his hardest.
“We played better today, and they could play better tomorrow,” said Burhanna, a 17-year-old junior from Cape May Court House. “Our singles and doubles are all evenly matched.”