HERSHEY >> Neither local tennis doubles duo playing on Saturday came home from Hershey Racquet Club with gold medals around their necks. But their respective seasons will continue.
Annville-Cleona's Alicia Hitz and Emma Lerchern advanced to the District 3 Class AA doubles championship match before falling to Lancaster Country Day's Grace Zechman and Amy Shields, 6-2, 7-5.
To get there, however, Hitz and Lerchern had to take out county rivals Sydney Nye and Kelsey Stubblebine from Elco in a tense 7-5, 7-5 semifinal. That triumph assured A-C's pairing a PIAA berth; Nye and Stubblebine later joined them for states by beating Lancaster Catholic's Elle Cubbison and Emily Lent in the third-place match, 7-5, 6-2.
In the AA title match, Hitz and Lerchern dropped the first set to LCD but rebounded to take a 5-2 lead during the second, just one game from forcing a third and deciding frame for the title. But Zechman and Shields stormed back to win five straight and close it out.
"We just kind of lost it there, and that's been happening lately," Lerchen said. "We let them get a couple game back. It's frustrating."
Hitz thought the issue was between the ears. "We tensed up," she said. "We thought, 'OK, we have a chance here, we don't want to mess up.' I think that's what happened."
For Elco's Nye, making states in doubles ended a four-year quest to qualify. She first played in districts doubles as a freshman in 2012 as a replacement for Raiders' all-timer Maddy Shaak, when the latter qualified in singles.
"It feels awesome," Nye said. "Last year I had a good chance and it didn't turn out well. And now, with me and Kelsey having never played (together) before, we did it."
Elco had to overcome a 1-4 first set deficit to Catholic to win the first set, then cruised to bronze from there.
The semifinal battle between A-C and Elco was the kind of crisp encounter you'd hope to see between county rivals. Although the Little Dutchmen were seeded second in the AA bracket, that distinction meant nothing when the tandems took to the court.
Nye and Stubblebine rallied from 2-5 in the second set to square it at 5-all, only to see Hitz and Lerchen earn a crucial break and then finish it out on serve. The opening set played out in similar fashion; the Raiders were up 5-4 but couldn't close the deal, dropping three straight and the frame.
It would have been the easier route to bow out to conserve energy for the third-place (and PIAA qualifying match), but that mindset is not in Elco's playbook.
"Kelsey and I are never going to give away a match," Nye said following the semifinal defeat. "We going to fight, no matter what. That's where we say we're going to play as hard we can and see what happens. And it happened."
Later, Manheim Township took home AAA honors with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 win over Lampeter-Strasburg in that bracket final.