ALLENTOWN – The District 11 Class AA Tennis Tournament turned into the Moravian Academy Invitational on Saturday afternoon at the West End Racquet Club.
Northwestern freshman Henry Paiste was the sole party crasher and he did his best to make a mess of Moravian Academy's plans.
Paiste rolled to a pair of straight set victories, including a 6-0, 6-1 win over the Lions' Bobby Michaelis in the semifinals.
Paiste will meet Moravian Academy's Andrew Ma today at 2 p.m for the District 11 championship and a berth in the PIAA State Tournament.
"Overall, I thought I played pretty well," said Paiste. "It was never really a goal of mine to make it to the semifinals or make it to the finals. I just wanted to play my best and advance as far as possible.
"Since I had never played in the District 11 tournament before, this was somewhat new to me. But I was familiar with a lot of the top seeds from playing in [United States Tennis Association] tournaments against them."
Paiste, the No. 4 seed, opened the day by beating No. 5 seed Mike Zardet of Allentown Central Catholic, 6-3, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
That put him in the semifinals where he was joined by the entire Moravian Academy singles squad. He beat No. 8 seed Michaelis, who plays third singles for the Lions. Ma, the No. 6 seed who plays second singles for Moravian Academy, recorded a 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 win over teammate Madhav Valla. Valla was the No. 2 seed and plays first singles for the Lions.
Paiste was very familiar with all the Moravian Academy players.
"I attended Moravian Academy in elementary school before transferring to Northwestern when I was in junior high," said Paiste. "So I know all three of their kids and I know they are all outstanding players."
After playing a relatively long first match against the Vikings' Zardet, Paiste knew that getting off to a fast start in the semifinals would be crucial.
"I like to be aggressive on the court, but I couldn't do that as much against Mike [Zardet]," said Paiste. "He plays a patient style so I had to be patient as well and wait for the right opportunity to attack. That made for some really long rallies.
"Combined with the fact that there isn't very much time between matches, it left me a little tired going into the semifinals. Because of that, I thought it was really important to start fast and get my energy level up quickly."
Paiste did exactly that as he lost just one game the entire match.
"I was able to get an early service break and that helped me build momentum," said Paiste. "Bobby [Michaelis] is a really good player so I was happy with how I was able to keep the pressure on him and maintain control throughout the match."
Although Paiste entered the tournament without specific goals of how far he wanted to advance, he has definite plans for his tennis career.
"I'm being home-schooled this year, which is allowing me to devote a little more time to my tennis game," he said. "I would love to play on the collegiate level and ultimately on the professional level."
eliminated in quarters
Tamaqua exchange student Gonzalo Hernandez Cascante entered the quarterfinals with a 15-0 record and owning the tournament's No. 1 seed. But he suffered a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Michaelis.
"I didn't think Gonzalo played quite as aggressively as he needed to during some key points in the match," said Tamaqua coach Janell Yelito. "This level of play is a little different for him.
"He hasn't played nearly as much tennis as the other seeded players and I think that showed. Gonzalo relies on his natural abilities and athleticism and it carried him really far this season, but today that wasn't enough."
Hernandez Cascante lost a couple of close games in the middle of the first set that seemed to turn the momentum and he could never get it back.
"He was very good," said Hernandez Cascante. "But I could have played better. I missed a few shots that I should have put away and had some close calls go against me.
"But I'm happy to make it this far and now I'm looking forward to the doubles tournament."