Tennis team advances in D-11 tourney
When Emmaus beat Pleasant Valley very early in the season, the Hornets won in convincing 5-2 fashion as the Bears got off to a 1-5 start. Fast forward to the District 11 team tournament and that 1-5 team came in at 13-5, riding a 12-match winning streak.
For third-seeded Emmaus, the red hot sixth-seed Pleasant Valley wasn’t necessarily a great draw, but Hornet head coach Dimitri Diamandopoulos also saw some bright spots in the matchup.
“I knew this matchup was going to be tough because they were playing a lot better,” he said. “I also knew that we had a good opportunity because we beat them during the regular season and our guys are playing well right now and with a lot of confidence.”
The match ended much the way the veteran coach drew it up, with the Hornets taking a 4-1 win and advancing to meet second-seeded Parkland in Tuesday’s district semifinals.
“I knew we had to win two of the three singles matches to win. I also knew doubles was going to be hit-or-miss,” said Diamandopoulos.
District singles champion Sean Jaeger easily shook off Josh Shaffner (6-0, 6-1) to give Emmaus a quick lead, but at number-two singles, Grant Haffner fell to Jake Ammerman in straight sets to even things up.
The break that the Hornets needed came when Kevin Ge picked up a 6-3, 6-3 win over Najja Francis in three-singles to give his team the two singles wins that it needed.
The match of the afternoon was the doubles match where Emmaus teamed up Ryan Peiffer and Aman Malik against Pleasant Valley’s Brian Kagel and Jason Allesh. Emmaus took the first set 6-4, but Kagel and Allesh rallied to take the second set 6-2, setting up a showdown for the match in the third set. Peiffer and Malik got out to a good start, but Pleasant Valley again rallied to even the set and force a tiebreaker, bringing up the hit-and-miss scenario that Diamandopoulos predicted.
As play went back and forth, eventually Peiffer and Malik got an edge and wound up with a 20-18 win that gave the Hornets the victory overall and a trip to the semifinals. Aiden Springs and Quinn Erk cemented things as they too went to three sets to get a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win over Mike Tauer and John Berry.
“Sean always does his job and then we got big wins from both of our doubles teams,” said Diamandopoulos. “The big win was when Kevin won at number three.”
Emmaus used doubles competition to pick up a number of wins throughout the season, but in district play, there are just two doubles matches instead of four, which may wind up being a disadvantage for the Hornets in the next two rounds.
“Most teams have a number of really good singles players, but we found our strength was in doubles for much of the season,” said Diamandopoulos. “Our guys are playing well and we’re going to have to have guys step up in these matches.”
The quarterfinals of the district tournament didn’t carry any surprises as the top four seeds all advanced. In addition to the Emmaus-Parkland match in the semis, Nazareth will host Liberty in the other semifinal match.
Nazareth cut through EPC play undefeated this season and lost just one match all year to make the Blue Eagles the top seed and favorite in the team competition. Liberty is looking to repeat as district champions. Emmaus hasn’t won a district title in boys tennis since 2004.