Reaching New ‘Heights’
The goals are always the same for the Abington Heights boys tennis team: Win its division of the Lackawanna League, capture the District 2 Class AAA team title and secure as many medals as they can in the District 2 Class AAA singles and doubles tournaments.
Once again, that checklist was complete — with an added bonus this year.
With wins over Lower Dauphin and Harriton, the Comets reached the state semifinals in the team competition for the first time, making a remarkable season even more memorable for the program, led by head coach Tom Lavelle.
The feat has also added another item to the checklist future Comets tennis teams will face each succeeding season.
“I consider our team’s ability to reach the semifinals of states as a testament to our athletes’ hard work and determination,” Lavelle said. “Being part of the final four teams in the state was a genuine source of pride for our program and this group of athletes. I would certainly hope that future teams rise to the challenge of achieving such high goals.”
As always, the regular season match with archrival Scranton Prep was a hard-fought, emotional battle but, this time, the Comets took more than just a victory over the Cavaliers.
Even though the level of play throughout the Lackawanna League is improving, the Comets have been able to stay atop the pack. What can also be said is that the competition the Comets faced over the course of the season helped prepare Abington Heights for its run to the state semifinals.
“Both Scranton Prep and Delaware Valley have provided us stiff competition,” Lavelle said. “Having had to prove ourselves against these opponents in two tough 3-2 victories certainly gave us the confidence that we would need to close out tough matches.”
The district and state team matches brought out the best from the Comets, whose play continued to improve throughout the entire season, playing at a high level against elite competition when it was demanded.
“The team certainly exceeded its expectations. We definitely had the goal to make it to Hershey,” Lavelle said. “Once we got there, our confidence grew and we became aware that we deserved to be there and that confidence helped to get us a win in the quarter finals and advance to the semis.”
It took each player that took to the court to play near his best each time out for the Comets to get as far as they did and each player did his part for the Comets every time he was asked to play.
“It was a true team effort all season,” Lavelle said. “Rishi Mulloth was there when we needed him against Scranton Prep, Delaware Valley and Harriton. Jai Redkar was instrumental in the round of 16 at the state level and in our district championship. [Number] one and [number] two doubles in Brandon Ostrowski, Eric Onofrey, Sahas Chandragiri and Riley Barrett were always counted on to secure us two points. The efforts and accomplishments of our doubles teams were truly instrumental in our team’s success this season. [Our number] two doubles was undefeated throughout entire season.”
In the 3-2 state quarter final win over Harriton, Mulloth and the Chandragiri-Barrett duo each overcame dropping the first set, roaring back to take the second and third sets to spark the victory.
It all added up to a second straight district team title and a dominant district doubles showing when Redkar and Chandragiri defeated Onofrey and Ostrowski in the Class AAA district final.
Abington Heights will take a 69-match league winning streak into next season and those players on that team will have a new entry on their checklist — going a little further in the state team tournament.
“We’re looking to fill key spots but have depth of talent to do so,” Lavelle said. “We hope to be competitive and continue our successes.”