BOYS TENNIS: Bahney, McNaughton advance to state semifinals
HERSHEY>> A year ago, Adam Bahney and Galen McNaughton were close, but perhaps not ready.
There is no such vibe coming the Elco doubles duo this time around.
Assured, confident and playing like it, the District 3 doubles champions steamrolled the opposition Friday in the opening two rounds of the PIAA tournament at Hershey Racquet Club, to reach Saturday's Class AA semifinals.
Seeking doubles gold in their final attempt, seniors Bahney and McNaughton will face the District 11 champions from Salisbury, sophomores John Yurconic and Mason Groff, in Saturday morning's semifinal. Court time is slated for 11 a.m.
Lancaster Country Day's Sebastian Pena and Drew Kopan will face Mark Pabalan and Brandon Fritze of Holy Ghost Prep in the other AA semifinal. The championship match will follow.
Elco's potent pair opened the tournament with a workmanlike 6-1, 6-3 victory over Jon Oskin and Ben Westcott of District 10's Fairview, before really picking up steam with a 6-0, 6-1 wipe out of the District 4 champs, Tyler Spinello and Tim Sprunt of Lewisburg.
They were never really threatened in either match at any time.
"I thought our volleys were really crisp today and our footwork was there," McNaughton said. "I played really relaxed in the second match. I thought my serve was going really well. Started serve and volleying a little bit because I want to be more comfortable with that in the next rounds."
Bahney, slightly more measured, agreed.
"We played two good matches," he said, "but I think in the second match is where we really relaxed. Once we got up big in both sets we were able to take some risks, do some things we weren't really used to like serve and volley. Overall, it was a great day, I think. We played some really good tennis."
In Class AAA, Cedar Crest's District 3 champ, Colin Muraika, lost his first-round singles match to Lower Merion's Simon Vernier 6-4, 7-6(0), in the morning session. It was a disappointing finale to a superb senior campaign for the Falcons' ace.
Muraika's morning proved especially frustrating. The District 3 champ had seemed in control of both sets against Lower Merion's Vernier, the third seed out of District 1, but could not close out either one.
Muraika garnered an early break in the first set to move out to a 4-1 lead, before Vernier stormed back to win five straight games to steal it.
The same pattern emerged in the second set: Muraika took a 5-2 lead – on the verge of forcing a third set and extending his high school career – but faltered. Vernier won three straight games to tie it at 5; the two traded holds; then the Lower Merion Ace swept the tiebreak, 7-0, to win the match.
Whether Muraika had it snatched from him by Vernier's bulldog mentality – Lower Merion's top gun played his best tennis when he fell behind – or whether that was not the case didn't matter to Cedar Crest's ace. Muraika was visibly upset by his play against Vernier, and he didn't hold back.
"I choked so hard," Muraika said, moments after the match. "I was up in both sets and that was insane. You can't lose both of those sets.
"When you're up 4-1 you can't be thinking about winning the set. You have to take it one game at a time and I didn't do that. I just choked. It's the worst thing mental you can possibly do on the tennis court, blow those two leads."
Muraika did not buy into the argument that he drew an exceedingly tough opening match for a District 3 champion.
"I should have won in straight sets. I was serving well, I was playing well," he said. "I just lost mental focus. That's all it was. I drew the third kid out of District 1 and I blew it."