Westtown >> The Unionville duo of freshman Andrew Ou and senior Andrew Poprik battled through five grueling sets of tennis – and an attack of bees – to capture the Ches-Mont American Division Doubles Tournament championship Tuesday.
Ou and Poprik, the top two finishers in the recent Ches-Mont American singles tournament, combined to defeat Great Valley junior twins Krish Mendiratta and Revant Mendiratta, 6-4, 6-2, in the championship finals at West Chester Rustin High School. Earlier in the afternoon, Ou and Poprik bounced back from an early deficit to defeat Rustin’s Sam Page and Rowan Degnan, 4-6, 6-0, 6-4, in the tournament semifinals.
“Poprik was a beast in the finals – he was so strong,” noted Great Valley coach Gerry McGrath.
“Andrew [Poprik] is the leader of our team, physically, mentally and emotionally,” said Unionville coach Jimmy O’Rourke. “His backhand is a monster tool. He has really improved in the second half of the season, has really been consistent.”
Two weeks ago, Ou captured the Ches-Mont American Division singles tournament title, defeating Poprik in the finals, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.
Following the Ches-Mont singles tourney, O’Rourke noted, “[Ou’s] game is about consistency and placement. He’s quick-footed and gets to [just about] every ball.”
The Ches-Mont American doubles tourney marked the first time that Ou and Poprik teamed together as a doubles duo, and these top two singles players are now 4-0 as a pair.
“With [Ou and Poprik] as our top two singles players this season, we really have singles 1 and singles 1A,” noted O’Rourke.
Poprik and Ou now advance to the District 1 3A doubles tournament to be played Friday and Saturday – the top three finishers in the Ches-Mont American doubles tourney automatically earn bids to the district doubles tournament. Last year, Poprik teamed with Matt Farrell to qualify for the District 1 3A doubles tournament.
In Tuesday’s semifinal, after splitting the first two sets with Page and Degnan, Ou and Poprik faced another challenge at the start of the third set – a swarm of bees attacked the Rustin courts, scattering all eight competitors.
“Out of nowhere I saw about 5-10 bees, then came a cloud of bees,” said Poprik with a laugh. “We all started running.”
Ou said, “I just heard the bees, and ran off the court.”
Unionville junior Jack Barrickman, who was teamed with Farrell in the third set of the other semifinal, said, “I looked up and saw a black cloud of bees, and started running.”
Fortunately, none of the players were stung, and both semifinals resumed after a short delay.
In the other semifinal, the Mendiratta twins prevailed against Barrickman and Farrell, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, and clinched a spot in the upcoming District 1 3A doubles tourney. This will be their first time in the district doubles tourney.
“Being mentally tough was the key [to winning the third set],” said Krish Mendiratta, who finished third in the Ches-Mont American singles tourney.
“This match was probably the best [match] Krish and I have had playing as a team,” said Revant Mendiratta, who had been sidelined at mid-season with an ankle injury.
McGrath said, “Krish has an all-court game, with good variety, he’s consistent and quick around the court. Revant’s placement is good, he can put it in good spots to capitalize on.”
In the third-place match, Barrickman and Farrell prevailed against Page and Degnan, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. By finishing third the Unionville duo earned an automatic bid for the District 1 3A doubles tourney.
“I was definitely tired by the third set, it wasn’t pretty, but we had to fight for points,” said Barrickman. “The key to the third set was staying positive and keep fighting.”
Farrell, who will be making his second appearance in the district doubles tourney (last year he teamed with Poprik in the tournament), said, “The key today was keeping focused and staying cool. Once I found my breath, I was good.”
Page and Degnan, who finished fourth, can still receive a berth in the district doubles tournament as a wildcard. The Rustin duo qualified for the district tourney last year.
“I think they’ve got a decent shot at the wildcard,” said Rustin coach Billy McElroy. “They took Ou and Poprik to a third set in the semifinals.”
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