ALLENTOWN – Henry Paiste and Jon White both found themselves in unfamiliar positions on Saturday during the District 11 tennis tournament.
Paiste, the two-time defending Class AA singles champion, was on the verge of dropping a set for just the second time in his three years of district competition.
But Paiste staged a dramatic opening set rally and went on to post a 7-5, 6-0 victory over Notre Dame of Green Pond's Mike Antonis in the semifinals.
White, a Pleasant Valley sophomore, hadn't lost a set the entire season. That streak came to an end in the quarterfinal round of the Class AAA tournament and he wasn't able to recover, eventually dropping a 6-4, 6-4 decision to Southern Lehigh's Robyn Ferraro.
Paiste reaches final
Paiste, a home-schooled student who lives in the Northwestern school district, was getting schooled by Antonis during the early stages of the match.
At one point, the top-seeded Paiste lost four straight games and found himself trailing the fourth-seeded Antonis, 5-2.
"Mike was playing ridiculously well in that first set," said Paiste. "I was making stupid errors and he was making every shot.
"I told myself during the changeover at 5-2 that I needed to just take it one point at a time and not panic. I tried to hit some higher percentage shots until my game started to come around a little bit."
Paiste did just that.
He held serve when he returned to the court and then got his first service-break of the match.
Things snowballed from there as Paiste didn't lose another game. He won five straight games to close the opening set and then six consecutive games in the second set.
"Once the momentum shifted my way, I tried to keep building on it and building on it," said Paiste. "It was a little closer than I would have liked early, but it was a lot of fun to be able to turn things around like I did.
"When I was behind, I just told myself that this is what I train for and these are the type of situations when all the hard work will pay off. I started making shots and now I get the chance to play in my third straight district championship match."
Earlier on Saturday, Paiste breezed to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Salisbury's Henry Rothermel in the quarterfinals.
He will face second-seeded Zach Shaaf of Moravian Academy at 2:30 p.m. today in the AA final.
White, who entered Saturday with a perfect 18-0 record that included a pair of victories on Friday during the opening day of the Class AAA tournament, faced Ferraro in the quarterfinals.
Ferraro was the only girl playing in either the Class AA or AAA field. But she is very familiar with District 11 tournament play. A two-time defending Class AA girls' champion, Ferraro missed this year's fall season with an injury. Because of that, she played during the spring season on the Southern Lehigh's boys' team. An increase in the Spartan's enrollment this season moved them up to Class AAA.
Ferraro showed she belonged.
White led 4-3 in the opening set, but Ferraro won three straight games to take the opening set. She rode that momentum to a quick 3-0 second set lead and held off White to post the victory.
"Jon hadn't lost a set this entire season," said veteran Pleasant Valley coach Mark Allison. "I think losing the opening set today threw him off his game a little bit and he quickly found himself in a hole in the second set.
"To Jon's credit, he battled back and got to within 4-3 and 5-4, but could never get over the hump."
Although disappointed with the loss, White said he will use it as motivation for the future.
"My goal coming into this season was to medal at districts so I'm a little disappointed I didn't accomplish that," he said. "But it was still a good singles season. I also made it to the second day of Districts this season after getting knocked out during the first day last year as a freshman so that was a positive."
Ferraro, who also knocked off Pleasant Valley's Jon Walmach in Friday's second round, got high praise from Allison.
"I though Jon played pretty well today," said Allison. "But Ferraro made very few unforced errors which kept a lot of pressure on Jon.
"She was phenomenal. In my 18 years of coaching boys and girls tennis, she is as good as any girl I've seen play. There have been some really good players in the district over that time, but she's right there with the elite players I've seen."
The un-seeded Ferraro was eventually knocked out in the semifinals by Emmaus's Matt FitzMaurice. FitzMaurice will play top-seeded Andrew Sinai of Freedom in today's Class AAA final.
No. 1 Henry Paiste (NW) def. No. 8 Henry Rothermel (Sal) 6-0, 6-0; No. 4 Mike Antonis (NDGP) def. No. 5 Andrew Ma (MA) 6-1, 6-4; No. 3 Madhav Sekar (MA) def. Adam Kramer (MA) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4; No. 2 Zach Shaff (MA) def. No. 7 Francesco Mowery (NDGP) 6-3, 6-2.
Paiste (NW) def. Antonis (NDGP) 7-5, 6-0; Shaff (MA) def. Sekar (MA) 6-3, 6-1.
No. 1 Andrew Sinai (Fre) def. No. 8 Roshan Joshi (Prk) 6-1, 6-1; No. 5 Michael DeLuna (SL) def. No. 4 Nick Khastri (Prk) 1-6, 6-2, 6-3; No. 3 Matt FitzMaurice (Emm) def. No. 6 Brady Wyant (Str) 6-1, 6-2; Robyn Ferraro (SL) def. No. 2 Jon White (PV) 6-4, 6-4.
Sinai (Fre) def. DeLuna (SL) 6-1, 2-6, 4-1 (ret); FitzMaurice (Emm) def. Ferraro (SL) 6-4, 6-3.