ROYERSFORD >> Everyone won. Everyone lost.
Such was the unusual outcome Thursday on the tennis courts at Spring-Ford as the Rams — unbeaten in the Pioneer Athletic Conference — hosted Methacton.
The Warriors, led by the singles wins of No. 2 Harsha Santhanam and No. 3 Max Markowitz, claimed victory in the match, 4-3, dealing the Rams their first league loss. But Spring-Ford managed to win the pivotal tiebreaker that still gives it the inside track on the team championship thanks to a win at No. 2 doubles in the day’s final match.
The tiebreaker involves the potential three-way tie between Methacton (8-1), Phoenixville (8-1) and Spring-Ford (7-1), all of which finished 10-1 and were declared tri-champions in 2018. With Thursday’s result, the league’s three frontrunners again went 1-1 against each other and are on course for another three-way tie.
It made for mixed emotions, Methacton winning the battle but Spring-Ford possibly winning the war.
“I was kind of worried,” said Spring-Ford No. 1 Malchu Pascual. “We came out here trying to win the match and now it’s looking like we might have to rely on this three-way tiebreak. There was some more pressure, that we’ve gotta win this match.
“It is unfortunate that we lost the match as a whole, but knowing that there’s the tiebreak system in place, it makes us feel a little bit better.”
With each team having at least three remaining matches, the need for the tiebreaker is speculative.
There’s no speculation about what looms this weekend: the Pioneer Athletic Conference singles tournament.
Spring-Ford No. 1 Pascual, the reigning champion, and Methacton No. 2 Santhanam got confidence boosters heading into the tournament, which begins Friday, 9 a.m., at Perkiomen Valley.
Pascual, last year’s Mercury All-Area Player of the Year as a sophomore, came through a tough first set and topped Adam Zhang, 7-5, 6-1.
“I feel good. It wakes me up a bit, kind of a wake-up call to know that it is time to step it up and be ready to play my best tennis because the tourney’s (Friday),” Pascual said. “It was a good challenge to help me prepare.”
Methacton senior Santhanam scored the day’s most convincing win, a 6-0, 6-1 result over Spring-Ford’s Adit Jain.
“I was getting to the net and putting it away there. If I’m nervous in the beginning, that’s the first thing I go to,” Santhanam said. “I’d like to keep it to the groundstrokes, but if I don’t feel they are clicking right away I go to the net.”
That’s understandable from a player with doubles instincts who is a reigning PAC doubles champion, winning the title with Krishna Suraesh in 2018.
Santhanam is hoping for a top 3 finish this weekend, but his chief goals lie with the prospect of back-to-back doubles titles.
“Yeah, for sure,” Santhanam said. “I’m hoping to play with Adam (Zhang) and hoping to repeat.”
Zhang and Santhanam being next to one another wouldn’t be unusual: besides the tennis court, they are Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in their class academically.
Santhanam has a busy weekend outside of the singles tournament: he’s heading on visits to his primary college choices, Brown and Duke, following the event.
Methacton also got straight-set wins from Markowitz at No. 3 singles, 7-5, 6-2 over Nolan Schweitzer, and at No. 1 doubles from Aaron Zhang and Krishna Pillutla – 6-1, 6-3 over Colin Curatolo and Connor Brickman – and No. 4 doubles, Caleb Nice and Cooper Nice topped Colton Pollock and Jason Chapis, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
Spring-Ford’s Cameron Moore and Josh Pergine won at No. 3 doubles, 6-4, 6-4 against Eli Smith and Darren Brady.
Despite the match already being decided in the Warriors’ favor, the No. 2 doubles match between the Rams’ Chris Lambert and Sidd Chavan and Warriors’ Saket Gokhale and Jonathan Ryu ended up being for the championship tiebreaker.
Lambert and Chavan rallied for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.
“They played very well the last set,” Pascual said of Lambert and Chavan. “It was impressive because they had everyone watching. I’m not sure if they knew about the whole situation, but it was nice to see them perform well under the pressure.”
In 2018, Methacton, Phoenixville and Spring-Ford all finished the season 10-1 and were declared tri-champions. In the year since, PAC boys tennis adopted head-to-head match wins as a tiebreaker for crowning a league champion.
With Thursday’s result, the league’s three frontrunners again split: Spring-Ford defeated Phoenixville 5-2 on April 2; Phoenixville defeated Methacton 4-3 on April 9; Methacton topped Spring-Ford 4-3 on Thursday.
If all three again finish 10-1 in the league, Spring-Ford, with 8 wins in the three-way tiebreaker, would be declared PAC team champion.
Spring-Ford still has regular season meetings with Pottsgrove (April 15), Owen J. Roberts (April 17) and Perkiomen Valley (April 23); Methacton has Perkiomen Valley (April 15) and Pope John Paul II (April 17).
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