Mars sweeps Thomas Jefferson in WPIAL Class AA boys tennis match
Maybe it was the early start that hurt Thomas Jefferson when it took on Mars in the WPIAL Class AA boys team tennis quarterfinals.
It also could have been the fact the match was moved indoors to Club One in Monroeville instead of being played on the Jaguars' outdoor courts.
Second-seeded Thomas Jefferson fell behind quickly in both singles and doubles matches and soon capitulated, 5-0, to No. 7 Mars. All five matches ended in straight sets.
“I thought that we played, across the board, terrible first sets,” Thomas Jefferson coach Chuck Correll said. “It was almost like we were still in warmups and they jumped all over us. They are really good, and I knew coming in here that Mars wasn't a seventh seed and that they had been under-seeded.”
One of the more anticipated matches was in No. 1 singles, where Thomas Jefferson senior Jake Mascaro took on Mars freshman Josh Raymundo.
The two were destined to meet in the WPIAL Class AA singles quarterfinals. But Raymundo, who would have been the No. 1 seed in the draw, was forced to withdraw after an emergency appendectomy.
Instead of being the No. 8 seed and seeing Raymundo in the quarterfinals, Mascaro moved up to No. 7 and eventually pulled off three upsets in the tournament, finished second and earned a spot in the PIAA Class AA singles finals May 24-25 at Hershey Racquet Club.
In their meeting Tuesday, Raymundo rolled to a 6-3, 6-1 win to give Mars its first win of the match. If nothing else, it showed Mascaro the type of competition he will face when he heads to Hershey in a couple of weeks.
“He's probably the best in the WPIAL, and it gives me a glimpse of the best I will face and what to expect,” Mascaro said. “I know that I'll need to work on my return of service. My serve was on and I was in a lot of games that I was serving, but when he got his first one in it was hard for me to get going.”
Mascaro has been playing indoors as part of his training for the state tournament. The first time he had played on an indoor court was when he lost to Vincentian sophomore Derek Chen in the WPIAL singles finals at Lake View Racquet Club. But even the improvement in his game wasn't enough to overcome Raymundo's service game and solid ground strokes.
Playing a match like this will only help his training as he prepares for what lies ahead.
“At states, very few kids are going to be average players. Everyone's going to be good and that's what we have to look forward to,” Correll said.
Still, Correll and Mascaro would have liked the opportunity to make a trip to Hershey on consecutive weekends. Instead, Mars is one win away from qualifying for the PIAA Class AA team finals.
The Planets will play Vincentian on Wednesday in the semifinals. Even with a loss, they could still go to states with a win in the third-place consolation match.
After a preliminary round match Tuesday, the remaining state qualifiers teams will participate in the team championships May 17-18.
“I really thought that we were going to make it to the third round and anything goes,” Correll said. “But you could see it out there that they were going to get better as a team.”