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Sewickley Academy, Shady Side Academy advance to PIAA tennis semifinals

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 3:12 p.m.

HERSHEY — Shady Side Academy's Eric Grubbs may have been embroiled in a match with Thomas Vernier of Lower Merion, but he had enough court presence to see the big picture and what was going on around him.

“I figured it out whenever our (No. 3) singles lost, and I saw almost everyone on our team in the stands and I didn't hear any cheering,” Grubbs said. “I wasn't focused on that, but I was able to piece it together.”

Shady Side Academy lost both the Nos. 1 and 3 singles matches and rolled over Lower Merion in both doubles, which set up a winner-take-all between Grubbs and Vernier with a spot in the PIAA Class AAA boys team tennis semifinals.

It was a situation Grubbs desired and thrived in as he came away with a 6-4, 6-4 victory to clinch a 3-2 team win and set the Indians up with a 1:30 p.m. Saturday match with District 1 third-place finisher Council Rock North.

“We just got a great effort out of our No. 2 player,” Shady Side Academy coach Tom Mercer said. “We know that our doubles are strong and they're going to give us a chance. And we have three good singles players, and hopefully we can get one of those and we did.”

Perhaps the strangest thing was how Grubbs won. In both the first and second sets, Vernier was serving at 4-5 and was up 40-0, but both times he surrendered three consecutive points and Grubbs was eventually able to break and win the sets.

“In the first set I was a little nervous, but I played two solid points and then I had him on the third point,” Grubbs said. “I knew when he double-faulted at 40-15 in the second set, that him and I were thinking the same thing — that I just had to close out the game — and I just executed.”

Sewickley Academy also gained a berth in the semifinals, as the Panthers made short work of District 4 champion Lewisburg, 4-0, and will play District 3 runner-up Lancaster Country Day in the Class AA semifinals at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Hershey Racquet Club.

“I thought we were very efficient,” Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder said. “We played smart, high-percentage tennis, and we got off the court without prolonging the day.”

Sewickley Academy got off so fast that the third singles match between the Panthers' Patrick Dellinger and Lewisburg's Russ Nash was stopped after the two split the first two sets. Since everything had been decided, both coaches agreed to call it a draw and not risk an injury.

It's not as though Sewickley Academy doesn't already have a bit of a concern in that area.

Senior Will Kleeman, the team's No. 2 singles player, is nursing tendinitis in his right wrist and spent several minutes with the PIAA trainer before and after the match.

Though he walked around with an ice pack after defeating Kerry Shutt, 6-3, 6-2, he is confident it won't bother him Saturday or when he plays in the state doubles tournament next week.

“I've been trying to cope and get off the court as fast as I could without doing too much to it,” Kleeman said. “I know I'm going to rest up and try to play as efficiently as I can and get ready this week for state doubles.”

Also in the Class AA tournament, Mars lost, 4-1, to Eastern Lebanon County. In Class AAA, North Allegheny fell to two-time defending state champion Conestoga, 3-2.

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kbarnes@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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