HERSHEY>> Ethan Rothermel was on a bit of a run after the first day of the District 3 singles championships. The Brandywine Heights junior dropped just one game during Friday’s portion of the two-day affair at Hershey Racquet Club, steaming into the Class AA semifinals.
It came to an abrupt halt on Saturday.
Rothermel — the newly-minted and undefeated Berks League champion — dropped a pair of matches Saturday at HRC that ended his season one step shy of PIAA qualification.
Freshman Jonah Rebert of Lancaster Country Day defeated Rothermel 6-2, 6-2 in the AA semifinals in Saturday’s first match; Brandywine Heights’ ace then fell in a tense three-set affair to Rebert’s teammate, George Markley, 6-3, 0-6, 7-5 in the third-place match. The second setback left Rothermel without at chair at states, as only the top three finishers qualified.
It was a hectic day for the talented junior — Rothermel raced to HRC from an SAT testing session at Wyomissing and arrived at the club at 1 p.m., the start time of the semifinals. He hurriedly changed into his tennis gear and hit the court, with only that 10-minute warmup time alloted by D-3 at his disposal.
The relatively cold start — by quickly shifting from the student to athlete — may have affected his game at first, Rothermel said, but he refused to blame the hectic schedule for his dual losses.
“It had nothing to do with the SATs,” Rothermel said. “Maybe at the start of the first match (he fell behind 0-3), but for sure not by the second match. I was ready to go and focused on tennis. Warmed by then up for sure.”
The ending to his tournament run was an especially tough pill to swallow.
Leading 4-3 in the third set of his PIAA qualifier against Markley, Rothermel was beset by leg cramps. He took the alloted three-minute injury timeout to have an attendant work on the cramps. He returned to battle through them and had Markley, who was on serve, two points from elimination at 5-4, 30-15, but could not close the deal. A pair of unforced forehand errors, shot into the alleys, allowed Markley to come back, win the game and the next two to see it out.
“My right leg started to tighten up a bit in the second set but I didn’t think anything of it,’ Rothermel said. “And then at 4-3, when he broke back, both of my legs just tightened up. Felt like rocks. Unfortunate timing and it’s never happened before, but I didn’t think I was going to be able to continue playing.
“Thankfully, they loosened up a bit after I took that medical time out. I was still able to move around a bit, but my game is built on outlasting guys with long rallies, and me not being able to do that was unfortunate.”
He lamented not being able to close Markley out, with the finish line tantalizingly in view.
“That was really upsetting,” Rothermel said. “I couldn’t put a return in play. At that point, I knew my legs were running out of energy. If I could just get two quick points, I’d have it. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”
In the semifinal against Rebert, LCD’s talented freshman attacked aggressively with a serve and volley approach to which Rothermel never fully adjusted.
“His game plan really worked,” Rothermel said of Rebert. “He likes to come to the net. And he was forcing the net right away. I knew it was coming and I just couldn’t come up with a lot of good passing shots. He was closing points at the net. My serve was working well but he was returning really well and I couldn’t finish balls at all. I couldn’t get the upper hand on a lot of points.”
Despite the tough ending to an outstanding campaign, the Brandywine Heights junior is proud of what he accomplished.
“it was an incredible season, especially in Berks,” Rothermel said. “To go undefeated there was amazing. Ton of great kids there, a ton of great kids here (at Hershey). Obviously, I wish I could have gone to states, but it’s been a great season. I can’t downplay that. It’s been incredible.”
Rebert went on the drop the D-3 AA title match to Will Wanner of Lancaster Mennonite 6-0, 6-1. Dallastown sophomore Holden Koons won his second straight title in AAA with a 6-1, 6-2 conquest of Cedar Crest’s Nick Tull.