HERSHEY - Call it the “unluck of the draw.”
Cedar Crest doubles tandem Nick Tull and Jackson Muraika needed a heroic effort last weekend at Hershey Racquet Club to secure a District Three bronze medal and the PIAA berth that went with it with a playback victory.
Their reward? Only a date with the defending state champions. And that went about as anticipated for the Falcons.
Tull and Muraika lost to North Allegheny’s Jared Isaacs and Richard Hofmann 6-3, 6-0 in the first round of the state Class AAA doubles tournament Friday at Hershey Racquet Club. NA’s pair later made it through to Saturday’s semifinals, where they’ll play upstart hometown kids Dante Falcucci and Jacob Jastrzebski of Hershey at 9 a.m.
Isaacs and Hofmann are the reigning title holders having beaten Mount Lebanon in this spot a year ago. For Isaacs, a senior, he is actually a two-time defending gold medalist, having also won the title in 2014 as a sophomore with a different playing partner. Hofmann won it with Isaacs last season as a freshman.
Tull’s playing career at Cedar Crest wrapped with Friday’s loss. Muraika, the younger brother of former D-Three singles champ Colin, is just a freshman.
“They (Isaacs and Hofmann), have the foundation that you need,” Muraika said. “They have the strokes. They knew how to move and when to go for shots and when not to. That comes with experience and they have a lot of experience.”
Tull and Muraika stayed with Isaacs and Hofmann for the first five games contested, with the Tigers holding a 3-2 edge. Then the champs kicked their game into a higher gear and ripped off nine of the final 10 in a blitz, forcing shot errors upon the Falcons.
“I felt as if we played pretty well,” Tull said. “Definitely far from one of our worst, put it that way. We came in with a pretty positive attitude. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was loose.”
Running out of road with a skidding thud could not tarnish, however, what the courtside May-December duo accomplished this spring. Tull finally made states, in his last shot.
“Jack and I didn’t have ton of experience as a doubles team coming into the season, and I thought we pulled it together and did really well,” Tull said. “In the end, I was really proud of how the season went as far as doubles goes. No regrets.”