Tull, Clary cap phenomenal week with trip to states
HERSHEY - It was quite a week to be a Lebanon County boys tennis player.
Especially if you were a freshman named Dylan Tull or Ben Clary.
Cedar Crest's Tull and Palmyra's Clary capped an eventful, medal-filled week by placing second and third, respectively, in the District 3 Class 3A Singles Championships at Hershey Racquet Club on Saturday.
For Tull, it was an exciting and satisfying conclusion to a week that began on Tuesday with a runner-up finish to now injured sophomore teammate Jack Muraika in the Lancaster-Lebanon League 3A singles final, as well as an L-L 3A doubles title with Muraika.
It also included a part in Cedar Crest's 3-2 district tournament win over Northeastern on Thursday, before a thrilling run to the district singles final that culminated Saturday with a wildly impressive 6-2, 6-4 semifinal win over Clary and a 6-1, 6-2 title match loss to sophomore repeat champ Holden Koons of Dallastown. Tull's district run also gave him a berth in the PIAA State Championships later this month.
And then there was Clary, who began his week to remember by becoming Palmyra's first-ever Mid-Penn singles champ on Monday and ended it by earning the Cougars' one and only state singles spot after bouncing back from the loss to Tull to upend Hershey's Dante Falcucci in the third-place match.
Not bad for a couple of high school tennis rookies.
"It's crazy," Tull said, of all he accomplished during the week "It was one of my goals as a first-year freshman. It's great."
Clary was equally pleased with the result of the work he put in since Monday, when he topped Falcucci in dominating fashion in the Mid-Penn 3A final.
"It feels really good, especially as a freshman coming out of Palmyra because no one's done it before," he said. "I knew I could make it to states, and I went for it."
The Tull-Clary semifinal may be a hint of things to come in future postseason tourneys, given their youth. But in their first meeting it was Tull who looked to be the superior player, overwhelming the steady, unflappable Clary with powerful ground strokes off both sides that were well-suited to the ultra-fast Hershey Racquet Club surface.
"I felt great," Tull said of the Clary match. "He's a great competitor, and two freshmen in the semis of districts is pretty crazy."
"He was really,really hitting the ball crisply and with pace," Cedar Crest coach Mike Rohrbach said of Tull's semifinal effort. "He was dictating the points at a level we haven't necessarily seen this year. He just pushed a great player in Ben Clary around today. Ben hung in there and made it tough on him in the second set, but (Tull) played as sharp as I've seen him. That looked to be his best tennis."
Clary did indeed absorb some blows in the loss to Tull, but he got right back on his feet against Falcucci, staying typically composed en route to his third victory over the Hershey standout this season.
"I didn't play as well as I could have, but Dylan played amazing," Clary said. "It was a little tough, I felt a little bad, but I knew I could beat Dante because I had beaten him two times before. That's the attitude I went in with."
"He's a great player and I'm very, very proud of him," Palmyra coach Abbie Mahaffey said of Clary's ability to bounce back. "It speaks to his composure. He is very composed and he moved on (from the loss) and he was ready when it came time to get back on. For a 15-year old, that's impressive."
It'a also impressive for Tull and Clary to be talented and competitive enough to be among a core group of young, super skilled players that makes District 3 3A the envy of any in the state right now.
"I'm excited for him," Mahaffey said. "Those are great players to be a part of, and he's right in there with them. He's doing well, and I'm excited to see what does in the future."
"It's a young group, and apparently there's some other young kids coming up next year," Rohrbach said. "So we're hopefully gonna see a lot of these same matchups the next couple years. It should be a fun next couple years for district tennis."