Shady Side Academy tandem falls in PIAA doubles finals
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HERSHEY — Alok Nimgaonkar and Chris Grubbs played a near perfect first set, and it appeared the Shady Side Academy duo would end the WPIAL's five-year drought in PIAA Class AAA doubles at Hershey Racquet Club.
But just as quickly, their lead, and their hopes, crumbled as West Chester Rustin seniors John Lim and Derek Sommers rallied for a 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory to win the state championship. Nimgaonkar and Grubbs were attempting to become the first WPIAL doubles team to win a state title since Doug Subotis and Andrew Nixon of Peters Township in 2008.
“It was frustrating after winning the first set, 6-0, and playing so well, but they had a great tournament,” Shady Side Academy coach Tom Mercer said. “They got all the way to the finals, which was good.”
Shady Side Academy jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set, but after it was tied, 4-4, West Chester Rustin broke Nimgaonkar to take a 5-4 lead and put the match on one of their own racquets. Shady Side Academy staved off one match point but not the second when Nimgaonkar's return went into the net.
West Chester Rustin almost didn't get a chance to play in the finals as Fox Chapel's doubles team of Sid Rajupet and Ben Short nearly made it an all-WPIAL championship match.
Instead, the Foxes lost a three-set heartbreaker, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11-9), to Lim and Sommers in the semifinals in which they fought off two match points and flubbed one of their own.
They then dropped another three-set match, 6-3, 6-7 (7-4), 6-2, to Josh Kaiser and Colin Wolgemuth of Manheim Central in the third-place match, but their semifinal had a carryover effect on West Chester Rustin.
“I think the other team, after that emotional last match, came out a little flat, and we came out relaxed,” Mercer said. “Everything went right for us, and we started making our shots, but in the next set, they started to relax a little bit and play a little better, and then we started to make some errors and come down a little bit.”
Central Catholic's Adam Blasinsky also had an opportunity to end a futility streak — only two WPIAL players have won a state Class AAA singles title since the classifications split in 1999. But Mike Buxbaum of North Penn made short work of the junior in a 6-0, 6-4 victory for his first PIAA Class AAA title.
Chris Mengel of Shady Side Academy was the most recent player from the WPIAL to win the state singles title (2010).
“I guess he just played his game,” Blasinsky said. “I wasn't really on my game and, he just took advantage.”
Blasinsky, who had split his last two meetings with Buxbaum at USTA-sanctioned events, was overmatched from the start. He was broken in the first game of the match and never got into a rhythm against Buxbaum, a Johns Hopkins recruit and the fourth-ranked senior in the state, according to the Web site tennisrecruiting.net.
“My game is really to come out there fired up, and I really wanted to get out there early and set the tone of the match,” Buxbaum said. “There's a lot of pressure. This is a state title, and all the best players in the state are here ,and, when you get down to the final two, there's a lot of pressure.”
Mt. Lebanon junior Peter Hazlett reached the semifinals, but lost to Buxbaum, 7-5, 6-2, then dropped a three-setter, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, to Andrew Sinai in the consolation match.
Sewickley Academy seniors Will Kleeman and Colin Kaye did something no other WPIAL Class AA doubles team had done in the state tournament, but they still weren't able to achieve the ultimate goal. The Panthers won the first set of their semifinal, but ended up losing a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 decision to Keller McGurrin and Peter Kazmierczak of Scranton Prep.
No WPIAL Class AA doubles team ever had won a set in the semifinals. Kleeman and Kaye were the sixth WPIAL pair reach the semifinals and became the third to finish in third place with a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) win over Notre Dame Green Pond's Michael Antonis and Francesco Mowry.
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.
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