VOORHEES >> It was with a heavy heart that Seneca High School junior Landon Wall successfully defended his singles title in the Olympic Conference National Division Tournament.
Wall defeated Bishop Eustace’s Joe Deiter in decisive fashion, 6-0, 6-0, in the championship match at Eastern High School. The junior, who was the top seed in the tournament, advanced to the finals with a 6-0, 6-1 decision over Shawnee senior Anshul Shetty in the semifinals.
Only hours earlier, Wall said goodbye to Marley, the only dog he has ever known.
“Marley was my first dog. She was loving, loyal and always brought so much happiness to our home,” said Wall. “She loved to play with her toys and play in the snow. She was a Golden Retriever ... Marley would have been 11 years old in August. She was diagnosed with cancer in March.”
The morning of the semifinals and finals on May 19, Wall said Marley “took a turn for the worse.”
“I called my coach (Sue Johnson) and she said I could forfeit my match,” said Wall. “I said my goodbyes to Marley and promised her that I would win the tournament for her.”
Wall had won the National Division singles title when he was a freshman in 2019. He went 20-6 that year to earn All-South Jersey Group 2 recognition and then had to deal with the loss of his sophomore season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was really excited for Landon to win the conference tournament again,” said Seneca coach Sue Johnson. “He played really well both days. Landon is great with grinding out points and keeping the ball in play. He has great footwork and gets into position to hit a lot of winners. Landon won it as a freshman so it was nice for him to have a repeat after not having a season last year. I loved the Landon fought through the heartache (of losing Marley) and came out and played his best. He played for Marley and brought home the title.”
Wall was pleased with how he played in the conference tournament.
“I felt like it was some of the best tennis I’ve played because I was driven to win for Marley and become back-to-back champion,” said Wall. “I wanted to keep my title as conference champion for myself, my school and my team.”
Thanks to Wall’s play, Seneca was able to reach the semifinals of the NJSIAA South Group 2 tournament as a No. 7 seed.
The Golden Eagles fell to No. 3 seed Pinelands (19-1), 4-1, on May 27. Wall had his team’s one point, a 6-4, 3-6, 10-7 decision over Brian Delbury at first singles.
“Landon is a very smart player,” said Johnson, who is in her 14th season as boys coach. “He can rally with guys. He has great ground strokes. He can come in and play the net or stay back. He takes his time to develop points and is able to hit winners to end the point. Landon is really such a sweet kid. He is super nice yet super competitive.”
Wall, who lost to Moorestown’s Naveen Shah 6-2, 5-7, 10-5 in this year’s Burlington County Open, raised his season record to 16-5 after the Delbury victory.
What are his goals for the rest of this season?
“To continue winning my remaining matches and break more records for Seneca. Continue training and playing USTA tournaments,” said Wall, whose favorite subjects are history and business.
Wall’s first love, however, is tennis.
“I train and play tennis every day,” he said. “I play in as many USTA tournaments that are available. I play with my dad who is a tennis director, and hit with my college friends whenever they are available. If I’m not on the court playing you can find me refereeing USTA tournaments.”
“Landon definitely wants to go to college and play tennis,” said Johnson. “He would love to have a career in tennis or do something with sports in the future.”
While his heart is broken, Wall will forever remember the day he won for Marley.
“It means everything to me,” said Wall of his second National Division singles crown. “I wanted to keep the title for Seneca High School. It also is important to me because it means all my hard work is paying off. This conference win meant the most to me because I made a promise to Marley that I would win, I felt her presence on the court with me.”