Unionville boys' tennis team ends dream season with first state title

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The Unionville boys’ tennis team poses with its hardware after winning the PIAA Class 3A championship.

It was the perfect ending to an almost-perfect season, and the Unionville boys’ tennis team did it by beating its closest rival.

Losers of just one match this season, the Indians earned their first state title on Saturday when they captured the PIAA Class 3A crown at the Hershey Racquet Club. They battled to a 3-0 victory over Ches-Mont League rival Great Valley in a revenge match. Unionville lost to Great Valley on April 17.

In the completed matches, sophomore Ethan Bradley beat Great Valley’s Sam Kesti, 7-5, 6-1, at second singles; sophomore Victor Li won, 6-3, 6-2, over Nikhil Gangoli at No. 3 singles; and the No. 2 doubles team of junior Clay Horowitz and senior Ethan Fitzsimons won, 6-0, 6-3.

In the semifinals, Unionville handled Council Rock North, 3-1, thanks to wins at first and second singles by Tristan Bradley and Ethan Bradley and the No. 2 doubles team of Horowitz and Fitzsimons.

The road to gold also included a thrilling 3-1 victory over District 10 champion Cathedral Prep in the quarterfinals. The teams’ four completed matches lasted three sets, and the two doubles matches required third-set tiebreakers.

At No. 3 singles, Li rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Alec Thomas, and  a sweep of the doubles matches gave the Indians the win. Unionville’s top doubles tandem of seniors Zach Sokoloff and Daniel Hopping outlasted Tom Prichard and Alex Clement, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1), and Horowitz and Fitzsimons topped Cathedral Prep’s Jon Horstman and David Estes, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4).

Play in the No. 1 singles match between Cathedral Prep’s Matt DeMarco and Tristan Bradley was stopped midway through the third set when the Indians’ victory was assured.

“I think we underestimated [Cathedral Prep] a little bit,” said Tristan Bradley, a junior. “That was actually our toughest match. I think after we won that match, we had a sigh of relief. After that win, we really played some good tennis.”

Sharon Largent, who has been the head coach at Unionville for 11 years, stressed the importance of having strong doubles teams.

“You can’t count on winning [on] all three singles courts at the higher level,” Largent said. “A lot of teams have very high-level singles players. It’s imperative that you win at least one doubles court.”

Unionville secured a spot in states with wins over Phoenixville, Pennsbury, Council Rock North, and Lower Merion in the District 1 tournament. A 3-2 victory over Lower Merion in the championship also was memorable for the Indians.

Horowitz and Fitzsimons kept the Indians alive at No. 2 doubles, fighting off one match point in the third set and battling back to beat Harrison Axlerod and Aseda Ademabgme, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3). Tristan Bradley followed with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 victory over Sean Attebery to prevent Lower Merion from winning its fourth straight District 1 title.

“From top to bottom, this is the best team I’ve ever had, first and foremost because of the strength of our singles players,” Largent said.

The Indians have had some great singles players over the years. Michael Furr won the PIAA Class 3A singles title in 2011, and John Wu claimed gold in 2014.

Tristan Bradley and the doubles team of Ethan Bradley and Li will head back to Hershey this weekend to play in the PIAA singles and doubles championships.

“I am confident that I can go far in this tournament,” Tristan Bradley said. “I have to play my best tennis, and I can’t underestimate anybody.”