HERSHEY – Cedar Crest’s Nick Tull and Jackson Muraika didn’t win District 3’s big prize but they didn’t go away empty-handed, either.
The Falcons’ doubles tandem, comprised of one senior (Tull) and one freshman (Muraika), lost to Lower Dauphin in the D-3 Class AAA doubles semifinals, 6-3, 6-3, Saturday afternoon at Hershey Racquet Club.
But Tull and Muraika would rebound to clinch a PIAA berth by defeating Hempfield in the third-place match 6-3, 7-5.
Hershey would later beat backyard mate LD to win the AAA crown.
It was an up-and-down day emotionally for the senior Tull, who saw his last shot at a district gold medal go out the window in the tough semifinal loss in the Falcon Bowl to Lower Dauphin -- only to earn his first, and what will be his only, states berth a few hours later by beating the Black Knights’ duo of Calvin Athey and Jack Curtain.
“We definitely moved around the court better and had more pep in our step than we did in our semifinal match (with LD),” Tull said, describing the states-clinching win over Hempfield. “We went out there with a positive attitude. We regrouped and went out and did what can do and we’ve been able to do all season.
“It was a mixture of adding a little bit more aggression at the net and trying to play back a little bit...the cross-court rally balls. Make them hit balls and make sure that we’re not giving them free points. We really regrouped from that semifinal loss. We’re looking forward to playing the PIAA tournament. Just making it really feels good.”
The semifinal loss to LD’s Josh Carl and Beck Wiles – a surprisingly one-sided affair in which the Crest duo never found any rhythm or consistency -- was the first of year for Tull and Muraika.
“We didn’t move as well as we have in other matches,” Tull said, before the PIAA playback match. “We didn’t put any pressure on them. But hats off the LD. They played really well and did the right things in order to succeed against us.”
Jackson Muraika is the younger brother of Colin, who won the D-3 singles title a year ago. He gets his first taste of states at a much more precocious age.
“It’s exciting,” Muraika said. “We were kind of down on ourselves after the first match. Luckily, we got all of the negative energy out and played well in our second (match). When you have a match as close as the second one, you’re not thinking about (winning in) straight sets. You’re taking it point-by-point.”