Hampton tennis team bows out
Sometimes a season ends because of unforeseen circumstances, like having to face the kick serve of a giant.
Jon Harrison had not lost a single match at second singles all year, but during Hampton's WPIAL quarterfinal contest against No. 4 seed Mt. Lebanon, he was locked in a tight first set. Harrison trailed, 3-2, in a tiebreaker when his opponent's second serve struck a crack on the court and the ball was propelled 15 feet over Harrison's head.
Coach Grant McKinney said the skip “was like the kick serve of a giant.”
Two more trampoline bounces from the court in the same tiebreak helped defeat Harrison, 7-3.
Harrison, perturbed by this unlucky turn of events, lost the second set, as well. Hampton also fell in close matches at first and second doubles, meaning the Talbots' season ended in a 4-1 defeat.
“I'm really proud about the season,” McKinney said, although it was Hampton's earliest playoff loss in three years.
“I think we met expectations,” Harrison said. “I'm happy with how the season ended.”
In 2013, Hampton jumped from Class AA to AAA in boys tennis but still earned a No. 5 seed in the WPIAL tournament and compiled a 13-2 record in the regular season.
The Talbots' successful jump in classifications would not have been possible without significant improvements and impressive performances from several players. McKinney said Benny Truckenbrod and Harrison were the most improved players.
Harrison worked hard over the summer and moved from third to second singles in the lineup. The team depended on Harrison for wins, and he provided one every match during the regular season.
McKinney also praised Truckenbrod, who paired with senior Ryan Koch at second doubles.
“He improved his serve. He stepped up and played really solid doubles,” McKinney said.
Harrison and McKinney were impressed with the clutch play of Wes Banks and Jung Bang during a regular-season match against Pine-Richland. The Rams put two singles players together at first doubles, but Banks and Bang prevailed, 3-2.
Not to be forgotten are senior Brad Cisek, who held his own against formidable opponents at first singles, and senior Michael Pfefferle-Gillot, who provided the lone win against Mt. Lebanon in the playoffs.
“It was a special one to go out on” McKinney said. “His opponent was a very good player. P-G was very creative in the way he tried to jump start his game.”
While the season may have ended earlier than the Talbots would have liked, it was still a campaign to be proud of.
McKinney said he learned “the fun of tennis is to go out there every day and compete. It's about watching the guys grow and mature as players.”
For the second year in a row, Hampton will lose five seniors, but McKinney can look forward to seeing his three returning starters improve over the summer while counting on whoever steps into the doubles spots to compete as hard as they can.
Sean Malone is a freelance writer.