BOYS TENNIS: Veteran 1-2 punch leads Elco to semifinals
HERSHEY >> It might be an oversimplification to say it, because every season brings its own set of challenges, but it sure felt like business as usual for the Elco Raiders at the District 3 Class AA team tennis playoffs on Friday.
Elco moved on to the AA semifinals with a resounding 4-0 win over Berks entrant Fleetwood at Hershey Racquet Club. The Raiders, who will face Lancaster Country Day in the semifinals, picked off courts at all three singles and No. 1 doubles to advance.
That semifinal is anticipated to be played at Elco, time to be determined, due to Advance Placement testing going on Wednesday at LCD, rendering the Cougars unable to make any slotted time at HRC during the day.
With top (and old) dogs Adam Bahney and Galen McNaughton manning the first two spots on the card, Elco coach Zach Cook has a veteran 1-2 punch that gives the Raiders a shot every time out, just like it's been for nearly three season now.
But some pups figured in the mix.
McNaughton was first off the courts with a 6-0, 6-2 conquest of Fleetwood's Cristian Melendez; Bahney had to work through a competitive first set before prevailing over Tom Paganelli, 6-2, 6-3.
Dylan Spitler took care of business at third singles with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Matt Schlegel, while the top doubles tandem of Linden and Mason Bennetch dispatched Thayjas Patil and Jeremy Heist, 6-1, 6-3.
The Bennetch brothers, clinching the team win, exited the courts a couple of minutes before Behney. Second doubles did not finish.
"I've been blessed with a great No. 1 and No. 2 player for the past several years now," Cook said. "So it's nice the win come out from not just (them). Obviously, Adam had the chance to finish, but we got a win from No. 3 (Spitler) and top doubles. So it's nice to see that we don't have to rely on Adam and Galen for everything as much as we have in the past."
Fleetwood's Paganelli extended some first set games with Bahney, trailing 2-3 early, before Elco's ace gathered steam as the match progressed. Turns out there might have been good reason for what could have been perceived as a sluggish start from the Raiders' top player.
"Paganelli's a very good player," Cook said, "I was surprised how good they were there. But Adam didn't look himself. He got home at 1:30 a.m. from college visit, so he's running on three-and-a-half hours sleep.
"But take nothing away from the Fleetwood player. He's a very fine player and he deserved to be there and he was playing very well against Adam."
The Raiders will go up against LCD, another traditional district AA power, led the Blaise Casselbury at top singles and a D-3 opponent that Cook's charges have become familiar with when the calendar hits this time of year.
"We're going to match up very well against them," Cook said. "We're very similar teams, in all honesty. They have some great top players as well and some younger kids down in the doubles lineup, just like us, are itching to get better and improve throughout the season. So it'll be, I think, a really tight match across the board."
If there is another thing the two programs share, it is a yearning to shed the long shadow cast by class giant Wyomissing, paced by defending PIAA singles champion Andre Fick.
One of them will get that chance.