HERSHEY>> Dylan Spitler was rolling in the second set of his match against Elk County Catholic's Austin Minard.

Already up a set, Spitler led by five games, just one away from clinching Elco's team tennis quarterfinal against the Crusaders at Hershey Racquet Club. Then the crowd materialized on the balcony to watch.

Feeling the heat, Spitler — a first-year team singles player — dropped four successive games to watch his lead shrink to a single game.

But with the spectre of an unanticipated third set suddenly looming, the Elco sophomore recovered, on serve, to close out Minard 6-4, 6-4 and clinch an eventual 4-1 win in the PIAA team tennis championships Friday afternoon.

Spitler's win at No. 3 singles gave the Raiders an insurmountable 3-0 lead at the time; Elco and Elk Catholic later split the doubles courts. Adam Bahney and Galen McNaughton each won handily on the top two singles courts, respectively, earlier for a 2-0 lead.

Elco advances to meet up with District 3 rival and three-time defending PIAA Class AA champ Wyomissing in the semifinals on Saturday at noon, back at HRC. The Spartans dispatched Fairview Friday in their quarterfinal match.

Spitler's 5-0 lead during the second set evaporated in under 15 minutes, but the young No. 3 singles player regained his poise long enough to deliver the Raiders to the state semifinals.

"I think I got too confident," Spitler said. "I was just trying to hit out, and it actually wasn't working out too well. I hit a lot of balls long, and I was trying to hit my serve harder and it just kept going into the net.

"After that game (a loss to make it 5-4), I saw how close he was to coming back and I just tried to focus a little more and I tried to keep my first more consistent. I took a deep breath and tried to slow it down a bit."

Elco is in familiar territory, having knocked on the door at states in the past, but the large shadow of Wyomissing – which has not lost a single team match since dropping the 2011 state final to Holy Ghost Prep, a run since of 78-0 – looms again on Saturday.

The players on both squads are very familiar with each other. Elco head coach Zach Cook knows what his Raiders are up against, again, but is confident his crew stands a chance versus the AA giants.

"It is extremely gratifying to know that all the hard work my players have put in is paying off," Cook said. "We knew (at the start) that we had at least one more year where we could get to this part again, and my guys are certainly pleased to be back here again.

"Wyo's been there, done that, been back here so many times that they probably have a private room somewhere in this facility. They are a tough nut to crack, no doubt. But my boys are also realistic. They hit with those guys. They know them. We know they're not much different from us in certain matchups. We like our chances at 1 and 2, we really do. I don't think they'll take us lightly, and they shouldn't take us lightly."

Behney had little difficulty in his top singles match against Elk Catholic's Alan Brennan. The D-3 singles and doubles champ took care of business in 13 games, 6-0, 6-1 to lock up a second court.

McNaughton, Bahney's doubles partner, garnered Elco's first point of the match with a 6-0, 6-0 whitewash of Drew Meyer at second singles in 35 minutes.

Elco's No. 2 doubles tandem of Christian Stahl and Dawson Smith provided the final Raiders' point of the day with a 6-3, 4-6, (11-9) tiebreak win over Anthony Pollick and Charlie Bobby, after the match had been clinched.

Elk Catholic gained its only point at top doubles, when Aaron Meier and Ian Herzing rebuffed Linden and Mason Bennetch 6-3, 6-4.

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