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Boys Tennis
Height of perfection
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Last updated: Wednesday April 16, 2008, EDT 8:36 AM
BY ROB CELENTANO
STAFF WRITER
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The Summer of Love had ended but man had yet to walk on the moon.

During the turbulent spring of 1968 in which two of the nation's most prominent figures, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, were assassinated, something special was brewing on the tennis courts at Hasbrouck Heights.

Joe Monti remembers it well, as well he should. The former teacher was a part of something during his one year coaching that has yet to be equaled 40 years later.

Heights completed the only undefeated boys tennis season in school history that year, going 17-0 to win the BCSL title when there were only eight teams in the league. The title also was the first tennis championship won by the Aviators.

"It was a magical season," Monti said of the only team he ever coached, which he expected to finish around .500. "Based on the expectations, they just overachieved and played their hearts out. It's a tribute to the players."

The Aviators rolled through 10 matches by the score of 5-0 and won four more, 4-1. When the team wasn't playing a match, it was practicing — and practicing and practicing.

Heights practiced seven days a week, sometimes for as long as three hours at a clip. Even with only three courts, the 10 players showed up every day.

"That was a little more than they had been used to, but they thrived on it because the more they won, the more they wanted to practice," said Monti. "They were dedicated to the sport. Sunday was voluntary but by coincidence everyone showed up, and I showed up."

Monti said there was one match in particular that he'll never forget. The Aviators were 14-0 and playing at Rutherford on a windy day when the match came down to a deciding point at second singles.

Rutherford had defeated Heights in three sets at first singles and first doubles, but Heights won in straight sets at third singles and second doubles. Then it all came down to Russ Ruymen.

"That match was full of tension," said Monti. "It was such a gut check for Ruymen. The pressure that was on him was unbelievable, but he was always a steady player."

The calm and collected Ruymen split the first two sets and was down, 5-4, facing triple match point in the third set. He then rallied to win that game and the next two to win the match and clinch the league title.

"That's my greatest memory," Monti said of the 3-2 win over Rutherford. "It couldn't have come closer than one point to losing an undefeated season."

Monti taught history at Heights through the 1987-88 school year before moving south to Lavallette. He then taught at Toms River East until his retirement in 2004.

"It's hard to describe the family feeling you get thinking of the memories," said Monti, now 65. "I have the fondest of memories of my 24 years with the students and community of Hasbrouck Heights."

And perhaps there is still a lesson that can be learned from this season — even 40 years later.

"The players proved that dreams can come true," Monti said. "Looking back I'm very proud of the team and their great accomplishment which has stood the test of time."

E-mail: celentano@northjersey.com

The Summer of Love had ended but man had yet to walk on the moon.

During the turbulent spring of 1968 in which two of the nation's most prominent figures, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, were assassinated, something special was brewing on the tennis courts at Hasbrouck Heights.

Joe Monti remembers it well, as well he should. The former teacher was a part of something during his one year coaching that has yet to be equaled 40 years later.

Heights completed the only undefeated boys tennis season in school history that year, going 17-0 to win the BCSL title when there were only eight teams in the league. The title also was the first tennis championship won by the Aviators.

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"It was a magical season," Monti said of the only team he ever coached, which he expected to finish around .500. "Based on the expectations, they just overachieved and played their hearts out. It's a tribute to the players."

The Aviators rolled through 10 matches by the score of 5-0 and won four more, 4-1. When the team wasn't playing a match, it was practicing — and practicing and practicing.

Heights practiced seven days a week, sometimes for as long as three hours at a clip. Even with only three courts, the 10 players showed up every day.

"That was a little more than they had been used to, but they thrived on it because the more they won, the more they wanted to practice," said Monti. "They were dedicated to the sport. Sunday was voluntary but by coincidence everyone showed up, and I showed up."

Monti said there was one match in particular that he'll never forget. The Aviators were 14-0 and playing at Rutherford on a windy day when the match came down to a deciding point at second singles.

Rutherford had defeated Heights in three sets at first singles and first doubles, but Heights won in straight sets at third singles and second doubles. Then it all came down to Russ Ruymen.

"That match was full of tension," said Monti. "It was such a gut check for Ruymen. The pressure that was on him was unbelievable, but he was always a steady player."

The calm and collected Ruymen split the first two sets and was down, 5-4, facing triple match point in the third set. He then rallied to win that game and the next two to win the match and clinch the league title.

"That's my greatest memory," Monti said of the 3-2 win over Rutherford. "It couldn't have come closer than one point to losing an undefeated season."

Monti taught history at Heights through the 1987-88 school year before moving south to Lavallette. He then taught at Toms River East until his retirement in 2004.

"It's hard to describe the family feeling you get thinking of the memories," said Monti, now 65. "I have the fondest of memories of my 24 years with the students and community of Hasbrouck Heights."

And perhaps there is still a lesson that can be learned from this season — even 40 years later.

"The players proved that dreams can come true," Monti said. "Looking back I'm very proud of the team and their great accomplishment which has stood the test of time."

E-mail: celentano@northjersey.com


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