When Eitan Khromchenko decided to play boys’ tennis in 2019, he changed the course of Marlboro High School’s season.
When Vasista Linga transferred to Marlboro from Sayreville War Memorial High School, he really changed the course of the Mustangs’ campaign.
Both events happened in the offseason, and they had a domino effect on coach Dave Kretzmer’s lineup.
Khromchenko, a nationally ranked United States Tennis Association standout, became Marlboro’s No. 1 singles player during tryouts in March. Linga, Sayreville’s top player a year ago, earned the Mustangs’ No. 2 singles spot.
These lineup changes pushed Marlboro’s second singles player from last year, Frank Liu, to first doubles. They also kept Kretzmer’s third singles player from last year, Lawrence Wang, at No. 3, even though he got better over the offseason.
With Liu and Wang in leading roles last spring, Marlboro went 13-5 and reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament quarterfinals, losing to Hillsborough High School, 3-2. So the Mustangs were already good.
But now with Khromchenko and Linga in the lineup, the Mustangs are very good.
They are 8-0 and they have not lost a single match, beating all eight opponents by a 5-0 score.
“I think we can be the team to beat in the Shore Conference,” Kretzmer said. “But there is some really tough competition in Central Jersey, Group 4.”
“We’ll see if we can compete there,” he added. “I’m hoping.”
Marlboro is primarily competing with Montgomery High School in Central Jersey, Group 4, and the Cougars have won two straight NJSIAA Tournament of Champions state titles. They have a lineup filled with year round USTA players.
But so do the Mustangs now, and Khromchenko is one of the best in the country. He is ranked in the top 100 for the boys’ 16 year old division.
The junior is as complete of a player as a high schooler can be.
“He’s a great baseline hitter and mentally tough,” Kretzmer said. “And his serve is big, so he can finish points.”
“USTA definitely is high level,” Khromchenko said. “You play some of the best kids and that allows you to excel in high school.”
Linga is not as much of a high level USTA player as his teammate, but he did play at No. 1 for Sayreville in 2018. And like Khromchenko with his USTA matches, Linga’s No. 1 matches prepared him to play in the two spot for Marlboro.
The competition at two is a step below the competition at one.
“He’s a nice all around player. Nice ground strokes. Quick on his feet,” Kretzmer said. “He’s been a nice addition.”
With Khromchenko and Linga in the top two spots, Wang is an overqualified No. 3 player. Marlboro beat a solid program in Christian Brothers Academy on April 11, and Wang beat his opponent 6-1, 6-1. After the match, CBA coach Courter Smith walked over to Kretzmer.
“He said, ‘That’s like having another ace in the hole at three,'” Kretzmer said.
“Larry would be a one or two on most other teams,” Kretzmer added.
At some point, Marlboro will lose at least one match. But maybe they won’t.
Even the team’s doubles players, Liu and Anirudh Singh at No. 1 and Steve Vorona and Sadhista Linga at No. 2, are USTA players who are dominating high school opponents this spring.
“We have a great chance at being No. 1 in the state,” Khromchenko said.