UPPER DUBLIN >> There was a lot on the line when No. 3 Upper Dublin and No. 6 Conestoga met Monday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the District 1-AAA Boys Tennis Tournament.
Not only would the winner of the match advance to the semifinals of the district playoffs, but they would also qualify for the PIAA Tournament.
Despite an early deficit and some close calls, Conestoga battled back to beat the Cardinals 3-2 and clinch its spot in states.
“We held strong, even with almost every game going to three sets, which was crazy, and I’m so proud of my team,” said Conestoga head coach Brittany Aimone. “Our program’s motto is ‘A Tradition of Excellence’ and I’m happy that this win allows us to keep that going.’’
Early on, it was the Cardinals that were showing off their excellence.
First singles player Byan Szayna was dominant, as he has been all year long for Upper Dublin, and won his match 6-2, 6-1 against Ahmed Aboseada fairly easily.
That’s pretty much what Upper Dublin head coach Lora Ball has come to expect from her top player who hasn’t lost all season.
“He (Szayna) is undefeated this year in doubles tournaments and in singles and has had a great season for us,” said Ball. “It’s been amazing for us to have him the last four years, I’m just sad to see him go now when he graduates.’’
The next match to finish was first doubles, which Upper Dublin also won (2-6,6-4,6-4) to give them the 2-0 lead to start and bring them to within one victory of advancing.
However, something seemed to change for the Cardinals once they took that second match. Players tightened up and started committing unforced errors and once that happened Conestoga was able to mount its comeback.
First, it was third singles player Carson Lortz who made his move. Lortz rebounded after losing the first set 6-2, to take the next two sets (6-0 and 6-4) and give the Pioneers their first win of the afternoon.
“I think Carson (Lortz) really battled,’ said Aimone. “I wasn’t even around that court watching, someone came up to me and told me he won that second set 6-0 and it took me completely by surprise. Then he was able to get the win and that was a match where I didn’t necessarily expect that to happen.’’
After Lortz won, it was second singles player Cahlin Pragada that beat Upper Dublin’s Andrew Duan (6-3, 7-6, 7-5) in a thriller to tie the match 2-2 and bring all eyes to the last contest of the afternoon, second doubles.
With everyone watching, Stephen Le and Sebastian Urrunaga battled back from down 4-2 in the decisive 3rd set by taking advantage of uncharacteristic mistakes from Upper Dublin’s Frankie She and Jason Won.
What once looked like a sure win for the Cardinals turned completely, as Le and Urrunaga managed to come from behind for the 6-4 victory in the final set to clinch a win for their team.
“I knew second doubles was going to be tough and as you can see it came down to the wire and our guys just got tight at the end,’ said Ball. “I think they knew that it was going to come down to their court, their match, and they tightened up and made some mistakes down the stretch.’’
Conestoga now gets’ ready for their semifinal match, where it faces Unionville.
In past years, this loss would mean the end for the Cardinals’ season, as in the past only four teams from District 1 qualified for the state playoffs. However, this season five teams qualify and Upper Dublin will have their chance at qualifying through playback matches.
Conestoga 3, Upper Dublin 2
Singles: 1. Bryan Szayna (UD) def. Ahmed Aboseada, 6-2, 6-1; 2. Cahlin Pragada (C) def. Andrew Duan, 6-3, 7-6, 7-5; 3. Carson Lortz (C) def. Ben Cohen, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4.
Doubles: 1. Danny Katz and Chris Choo (UD) def. Kai Czubryt-Ogino and Matt Walton, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4; 2. Stephen Le and Sebastian Urrunaga (C) def. Frankie She and Jason Won, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Top Photo: Conestoga’s Ahmed Aboseada prepares to return a volley Monday during the Pioneers’ District 1-AAA quarterfinal against Upper Dublin on Monday, May 8, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)