Methacton sweeps doubles, stops Spring-Ford, 4-3

FAIRVIEW VILLAGE — A.J. Benno and partner Hari Santhanam were just the right guys for the job.

The Methacton junior and sophomore, respectively, had precisely the right temperament for the situation the No. 4 doubles team was faced with Thursday.

“They are both pretty even-keeled,’ Methacton boys tennis coach Jill Walker said. “I didn’t want to put anyone in there (at No. 4 doubles) that was rough or would ruffle feathers and make the other person nervous. I knew together they just kind of gelled. You can’t ever forget fourth doubles.’

There was no forgetting it in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s undefeated showdown between Methacton and defending champion Spring-Ford, which came down to a decisive set in one decisive match … at No. 4 doubles.

With the team score split three apiece, Benno served the match out as he and Santhanam defeated Spring-Ford’s Cameron Trager and Todd Unger, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, to clinch a doubles sweep and 4-3 win over the Rams.

The victory gives Methacton the inside track to claim the PAC-10 championship as the league’s only remaining unbeaten (7-0). On Monday, the Warriors can claim the outright title with a win over Pope John Paul II (4-3).

Methacton did it with depth, overcoming Spring-Ford’s singles sweep.

At No. 1 doubles, Ryan Hamilton and Nick Simeone rallied for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over Nick Griswold and Matt Yerkes. At No. 2 doubles, the Warriors’ Debanik Purkayastha and Subanik Purkayastha also went three sets, topping the Rams’ Luke Emerson and Zack Collier, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-1. The lone straight-set match in doubles came at No. 3, Kelly Donahue and Kevin Wichert downing Kevin Yun and John Fazzini, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

In singles, PAC-10 champion Patrick Pascual rallied past 2013 league singles champion Justin Baman, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 1. PAC-10 finalist Ryan Schweitzer had the match’s most dominating performance, downing Max Schneider at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-3. T.J. Cruickshank rounded out the Spring-Ford singles sweep by topping Tassos Sapalidis, 6-4, 6-1, at No. 3.

Coach Walker knew the Warriors would have to win it in doubles.

“Spring-Ford was by far the strongest in singles in the league, no doubt about it. We got lucky that we were able to build up strong doubles,’ she said. “(In preseason) when we started forming teams I got very excited because I was feeling very good about each team. But you never really know.’

Each team has proven it throughout the season, namely Benno and Santhanam against Spring-Ford (7-1).

“I knew they could be consistent, I felt they were stronger than most fourth doubles teams and they can read each other. They have way better chemistry than they’d even admit,’ Walker said.

Benno, who served the clinching game after the Methacton team rattled off the match’s final three games after going down 3-4 in the final set, didn’t realize how much was riding on his service game.

“When we were playing the last couple games I didn’t realize it was all down to us. I just thought everyone was off the court cheering us on. Let’s just play, give them a good show. And then when we came off the court then I realized,’ Benno said.

For his part, Sanathanam knew the situation but was undeterred.

“(I knew the match was on the line) about halfway through the third set,’ Sanathanam said. “We had a huge crowd. I don’t think that many people would have been watching so closely.’

The No. 1 singles match between Pascual and Baman, a rematch of the 2013 league semifinal that also went three sets, was a highly-anticipated one.

That previous three-set loss wasn’t on Pascual’s mind, even after dropping the first set 6-1.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking about the past,’ he said. “I was just thinking about how much I have to win for my team and I did it. I did it with heart.’

It was a quality win, especially on the eve of the District 1 Singles Tournament, which begins Friday at Healthplex. Pascual faces Henderson’s Karl Hoegstedt in the first round. Schweitzer, the PAC-10 runner-up, will meet Unionville’s Ross Fitzsimmons in his opening match.

“Third-set wins against Baman and Pennridge (No. 1 Chandat Phan) … coming from behind in both gives me confidence,’ Pascual said.

Methacton is now in position to reclaim the PAC-10 title after winning it three straight seasons (2009-11).

“Last year our team wasn’t as strong but this year we came back and all our doubles were strong at every spot,’ Benno said. “To be a part of that is an awesome feeling.’

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