WPIAL champion Blazinsky reaches PIAA tennis semifinals
HERSHEY — Every year there are matches in the first couple of rounds of the state singles tournament that call into question the PIAA decision to pre-seed the bracket by district rather than by USTA ranking.
Central Catholic junior Adam Blazinsky, the WPIAL Class AAA champion and No. 6 junior in the state according to the Website tennisrecruiting.net, found himself embroiled in one of those better-suited-for-later-in-the-bracket matches in the quarterfinals against No. 3 senior and Penn State recruit Christian Lutschaunig of La Salle College High School.
After the two slugged it out for nearly two hours Friday, Blasinsky came away with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 victory to move into the PIAA Class AAA semifinals at 11 a.m. Saturday against Freedom (District 11) sophomore Andrew Sinai.
“I'm used to (hard-hitting matches), because I train with (Pine-Richland alum) Casey Watt,” Blasinsky said. “He went to Notre Dame and multiple states, and he hits the ball pretty hard.”
Both bombed the ball back and forth at each other throughout, but Lutschaunig began to tire at the end of the first set after going through a 2 hour, 45 minute three-set first-round marathon 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-3 victory over Unionville's John Wu, the No. 4 junior in the state.
“It was tough, and it was definitely starting a little bit behind the eight-ball,” Lutschaunig said. “But he was the better player on this day. Even if it was the first match of the day, I think he would have still gotten the better of me.”
Blasinsky's win started a sweep for the WPIAL in Class AAA as Mt. Lebanon junior Peter Hazlett in singles and the doubles teams of Fox Chapel's Sid Rajupet and Ben Short and Shady Side Academy's Alok Nimgaonkar and Chris Grubbs all reached the semifinals. It was the first time since 2010 all four Class AAA qualifiers pushed through to the semifinals.
In Class AA, the only District 7 state qualifier to win two matches and make it to the 9 a.m. Saturday Class AA semifinals was the Sewickley Academy doubles tandem of Will Kleeman and Colin Kaye.
The seniors rolled through two opponents to become just the sixth WPIAL Class AA doubles team to make it as far as the state semifinals. The Panthers clinched their spot in the matinee with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Diego Pinyo and Bryce Pinkerton of Brandywine Heights.
“There's just a lot more confidence,” Kleeman said. “I've been building confidence ever since I got here (two) years ago, and Colin really picked me up in the last match. Now we have to get ready for the final day. We only have two matches, so we have to be ready for it.”
Kaye and Kleeman will face District 2 champions Keller McGurrin and Peter Kazmierczak of Scranton Prep in the semifinals. If they are to become the first WPIAL team to qualify for the Class AA title match, they will have to clean up a bit of what they did in the latter portion of the quarterfinals.
Sewickley Academy appeared ready to close it up, 5-2, in the second set but allowed Brandywine Heights to rally for wins in four consecutive games to take a 6-5 lead. Kaye and Kleeman, though, fought through to win the 12th game then came back from down, 5-3, in the tie-breaker for four consecutive points to close it out.
“I think it was a combination of they began to play better, and we got a little lackadaisical,” Kaye said. “It just goes to show nothing is given to you.”
Mars' doubles team of Josh Raymundo and Aaron Gruber almost joined Kaye and Kleeman in the semifinals, which would have marked the first time two WPIAL teams made it into the semis in the same year. But after winning the first set, the Planets dropped a three-set 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 decision to Spencer Rhoads and Wes Davis of Lancaster Country Day and were eliminated.