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DLN ALL-AREA: Gangoli gladly trades individual state crown for Great Valley’s team title

In the end, Sameer Gangoli traded one PIAA tennis gold medal for another. There are certainly worse outcomes.

The Great Valley junior and 2018 state champion fell one step shy in his repeat bid for individual glory at Hershey Racquet Club on May 25, when he lost the Class 3A state singles title match to Fox Chapel senior Robby Shymansky.

But the Gangoli-led Patriots captured the program’s first team state team title seven days earlier, at HRC, with a 3-1 over District 1 rival Radnor — a match in which Gangoli captured the top singles court with a straight-sets win over Max Safanov.

Earlier that month, Gangoli had repeated as District 1 singles champ with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Unionville’s Tristan Bradley, avenging a loss to him in the Ches-Mont League final.

Gangoli’s persistent excellence, achievement and leadership make him a repeat honoree for Daily Local News boys’ tennis Player of the Year.

Though a regular traveler to tournaments all over the country, Gangoli’s heart is never far from Great Valley. He frequently references his teammates’ support while commenting on his own matches. So any disappointment in losing during his repeat singles effort to a desperate Shymansky, making his last bid for gold, was offset by garnering the highest scholastic team honor his sport provides with those teammates.

“Winning states as a team was just incredible for all of us,” Gangoli said. “When we finally won that, it felt like that was exactly what we needed just because all of the past chances we’ve had. It was our third time in a state final and for us to finally win it showed how much we wanted it.

“They’re definitely different tournaments. The one, you’re playing for your school and your teammates. The individual title, the team also plays a part in it but you’re doing it for yourself. … Picking one is difficult, because for the team title we wanted it for all of us. This year, I would say it meant more to win the team title. We hadn’t done it before.”   

The PIAA singles tournament the following weekend was highlighted by ousting four-time District 3 champion Holden Koons of Dallastown 6-3, 6-2 — itself no small feat, as Koons was also making his last, desperate bid — in a morning session semifinal before falling to Shymansky by a 7-6(0), 4-6, 6-3 score in the title match.

Gangoli does not believe his high school singles career took a sideways step with the singles finals loss. Next season, after all, presents a new opportunity.

“It was one of those matches where I think both players deserved to win it, and I think we both played some of the best tennis either of us ever have,” he said. “Robby’s always been one of the best players.

“I don’t believe it means I took a step back. I don’t look at it like that. I know the way I played is exactly how I wanted to and building off of that is more important. I feel very comfortable with my game.”

Gangoli is cognizant of the leadership role he’s assumed during the past two season at Great Valley, but keeps the ego at arm’s length.

“When you’re on a team, you don’t want to be that guy who says ‘I’m better than everyone else, I don’t need to practice’,” Gangoli said. “That defeats the whole purpose of a team. So, I feel like for me, yeah, a lot of my teammates may look up to me, but it’s not like that gives me a big head. I try to ignore all that.

“We all look out for each other and help each other and support each other, and that’s what matters. That’s what boosted us throughout the season.”

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