HERSHEY - The last time Dallastown boys' tennis coach Mark Koons coached a District 3 champion, his young son Holden was 5.
Fast forward a decade. That son is now a district champion himself.
Holden Koons became the first tennis champ for not only Dallastown, but also for the YAIAA, since Billy Heird in 2006 with Monday's 6-4, 7-5 win against Griffin Clark of Manheim Township in the Class AAA championship match at Hershey Racquet Club.
Koons also became the first freshman to win a District 3 singles title in at least 26 years. The district split into two classifications, AA and AAA, before the 1998-99 season.
“I’ve been looking forward to this all year,” Holden Koons said, with a calm, matter-of-fact confidence not often seen in young players. “I was really hoping I’d be able to win out. I knew I could beat anyone in it, but I also knew they could beat me as well. I think my mindset was really good.”
Koons defeated Cumberland Valley’s Milo Nagle 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, in a draining semifinal before earning his shot against Clark, the Blue Streaks’ ace who has battled well-documented health issues and still continues to play at an amazingly high level. Clark had defeated Exeter top gun Jonah Buczewski in his semifinal match.
Koons, the Wildcats’ freshman phenom, showed a court poise and maturity beyond his 15 years in what ultimately proved to be a difficult afternoon of tennis at HRC.
“He’s played a ton of competitive tennis, since he was 8,” Mark Koons said. “So this is one more step in the journey. It’s been a long journey and there’s still a long way to go.
“Holden’s put a lot of time and effort into his life on the tennis court, and it’s nice to see it pay some dividends and be recognized for it.”
On two occasions, Koons won three consecutive games against Clark. Both runs came at critical junctures. Clark led 3-2 in the first set before Koons rallied for three straight and a 5-3 lead, which he cashed out two games later. The second run came when Koons 4-5 in the second set, with a third and deciding set looking possible. But Koons closed out Clark by winning the final three games to clinch the gold medal.
Koons wouldn't have reached the gold-medal match without a mid-match adjustment against Nagle, another coach’s son who clipped him 7-5 in the first set of their semifinal match. After formulating a counter to Nagle's attack plan, Koons dominated the second set, then closed Cumberland Valley's ace in a nine-game third frame to advance.
“Milo had a really good game plan against him,” Mark Koons said. “It was Milo’s forehand against Holden’s backhand. He couldn’t get out of that pattern – backhand corner, backhand corner. Tactically, (Holden) needed to switch it up, and then he got to dictate using his left-hand advantage a little more.
“I’m proud of him. It’s nice he gets some feedback and recognition for all the time he puts in on the court.”