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BOYS TENNIS: Elco duo secures district doubles title

HERSHEY - Adam Bahney smashed a blistering serve that caught the tip of Alphonse Bongbong's racquet. The ball ricocheted into the light standard at Hershey Racquet Club.

Bahney and teammate Galen McNaughton realized a dream. A last-shot dream.

The Elco seniors won the District 3 Class AA doubles title Saturday with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Bongbong and his teammate Dan Trifoi, of Wyomissing.

"It was our dead-last chance to possibly do it and we pulled it off," Bahney said. "It feel great. Going up on the banner in the gym – district champs."

In their final district go-round, Elco's partners were top seeds in the draw and lived up to that considerable billing.

"It feels great to get this," McNaughton said. "Smiles all around."

To get there, Bahney and McNaughton had to stave off a surprisingly stout challenge from Fleetwood's Tom Paganelli and Cristen Melendez earlier at HRC in the semifinal, a 6-1, 7-5 verdict.

Wyo reached the final with a 7-6(5), 6-3 win over Lancaster Country Day's Sebastian Pena and Drew Kopan.

Elco, as has been the partners' wont this weekend, came out firing against the Spartans and took the first set 6-2 in a tidy 40 minutes. Their games were clean and they picked off two breaks to close it out early.

In the second set, the two pairs of finalists stayed on serve, trading holds until game seven, when Elco finally got the service break it was seeking to move out in front 4-3.

"Oh, for me, huge," McNaughton said of the break. "One of our goals was not to get our serve broken at all, which is not only a statement to how well we're serving, but also our net movement. Your serve can only be as good as your approach at the net. We want to break, but we also want to focus on our service games."

McNaughton held for a 5-3 Elco lead. Trifoi, however, nailed consecutive aces the next game to make it 5-4. Bahney and McNaughton then got out in front 40-15, at championship point. The former's service missile clipped Bongbong's racket and that was that.

Saturday's semifinal match against Fleetwood was an odd one. Elco did its 15-minute blitz thing again by moving out to a 5-0 first set lead before most people were barely settled into their seats, en route to a 6-1 set win.

However, the duo found the ditch during a second set that nearly derailed the dream – or at least, nearly sent the finals berth quest to a third set, which neither would have wanted.

Fleetwood, dazed but not out, regrouped and stayed on serve for a 5-4 lead. Paganelli and Melendez found a rhythm lacking during the first set, almost as if resetting the score cards rejuvenated them.

Conversely, Bahney and McNaughton appeared to let off the gas pedal, as if still admiring their first-set handiwork. They admitted as much. It nearly bit them.

"Yeah, that probably could have been it," Bahney said. "We were playing so well in the first set ..."

" Coach (Zach Cook) said that first set was one the best he'd seen us play," McNaughton picked up, finishing the thought. "We were really clean. (In the second set) I wasn't putting balls away and my intensity may have gone away there, and my feet weren't moving quite as fast as they should have been."

Elco rallied to win the final three games to close it out 7-5 and escape the Tigers in straight sets.

"I think the difference between playing well and maybe not playing our best is definitely movement at the net" Bahney said, "in addition to getting our returns in play and playing aggressive off those returns. I really think net play was key, especially in the Wyo match."

Next up is the PIAA Tournament, later this month at HRC.

"We're not done yet," McNaughton said. "We're still hungry."