NEWTOWN – Before Council Rock North entered its District 1 opening playoff match with No. 12 seeded Methacton (16-3), Indians head coach Paul Wysocki implored his charges not to take the Warriors lightly.
The North players took their coach’s advice, discharging the Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC) champions 4-1 in the Round of 16 Class AAA opener Thursday afternoon, May 4 on the Rock’s home courts.
“I don’t think the score reflect the overall quality of their team,” said Wysocki, after the Indians advanced. “But my No. 3 singles player and our number one doubles team played very clean matches and really just never allowed the Methacton players to get into the match.”
The North skipper was referring to junior Jeff Zhao, who topped Agam Zhang, 6-1, 6-1 and doubles partners senior Jake Eisenberg and junior Chris DiMedio, who outpaced Krishna Suraesh and Harsha Santhanam by the same scores.
All three singles players for the Indians won in the opener, starting with number one singles captain Matt Whalen, a third-year junior who toppled Subhanik Purkayastha, 6-1, 6-3.
“I thought we would win all three of those matches but not by the scores in which we did,” added Wysocki. “I really like what I see.
“If we can maintain this form, I really like our chances against Great Valley.
Seeded fifth in the team tournament, North advances to face the fourth-seeded Patriots Monday at GV. Great Valley outpaced 13th-seeded CB West 4-0 in its D-1 opener.
While Whalen says he enjoyed winning the District 1 AAA Doubles tournament last year and going to the state quarterfinals along with his brother Alex – who has since graduated – he says he’s enjoyed his new leadership role at the Rock this season.
“Last year was a lot of fun and I definitely miss that,” explained Whalen. “But this year is also a ton of fun. We have a lot of young kids – freshmen, kids who are trying out for the first time so it’s obviously different. But I like this year just as much.”
For his part, Zhao came off the disabled list in order to help his team take the win in the team tournament. This is the second straight year that Jeff has sustained ankle problems that kept him out of the District 1 singles tournament.
“I was hoping to have that opportunity this year but the ankle – I sprained it this year again,” explained Zhao. “It’s a missed opportunity. But I knew my team needed me so I really dedicated myself to my therapy and doing stretches at home so I could get back on the court as soon as possible.”
“It’s paid off, I think.”
After taking the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference title in 2016 for the fourth straight year, Rock North was forced to share the title with Pennsbury and Abington as all three teams finished 4-1 in the league.
In league action, the Rock knocked off the Falcons 4-3 but lost to Abington by the same score. Pennsbury vanquished the Ghosts 4-3 and the Indians lost non-league bouts with Unionville and Wissahickon.
“Knowing that we lost to Abington and Unionville at the three singles spot is hard to accept,” explained Zhao, “because I think I could have gotten a win there.”
“Winning today was good payback.”
North (12-3) was not as deep as it has been in the past and took some lumps at third and fourth doubles
“One of the reasons they didn’t get a lot of wins this year at third and fourth doubles was because they didn’t have a lot of experience,” said Zhao. “Now they know what it’s like to play against competitive teams.
“Next year they can build upon what they learned this year, really practice and get those wins next season.”
In individual tournament play, Kliebhan, a freshman, made it all the way to the D-1 Class AAA semifinals where he lost to Downingtown East’s Michael Dickson. Before that, he outplayed Abington’s Isaac Rockower, Wissahickon’s Andrew Tran and Great Valley’s Sameer Gangoli.
Meanwhile, Whalen won his first match with West Chester East’s Justin Aksu before giving way to Radnor’s Max Safanov in the Round of 16.
Council Rock North 4, Methacton 1
(May 4 at CR North)
Singles: 1. Matt Whalen (CRN) def. Subhanik Purkayastha, 6-1, 6-3; 2. Daniel Kliebhan (CRN) def. Alan Shen, 6-0, 6-0; 3. Jeff Zhao (CRN) def. Agam Zhang, 6-1, 6-1.
Doubles: 1. Jake Eisenberg and Chris DiMedio (CRN) def. Krishna Suraesh and Harsha Santhanam, 6-1, 6-1; 2. Matt Zhang and Max Markowitz (M) def. Aaron Abraham and Ashton Johnson, 6-3, 6-1.
Records: Methacton (16-3); CRN (12-3).
TOP PHOTO: Council Rock North freshman Daniel Kliebhan defeated Alan Shen, of Methacton, 6-0, 6-0, to help the Indians advance to a District 1 Class AAA quarterfinal matchup against Great Valley Monday at GV. (Steve Sherman – 21st-Century Media)