It wasn't a surprise that the Saucon Valley-Jim Thorpe tennis match went down to the wire.
What was a surprise – a very pleasant one for the Panthers – was how well their No. 1 doubles team delivered in the clutch.
Saucon Valley's Luis Devia and Gavin Coyne pulled out a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Jim Thorpe's Oliver Schulz and Josh Mohn to give their team a 3-2 win in the quarterfinals of the District 11 Class AA Team Tournament.
"I'm ecstatic. They [Devia and Coyne] are definitely peaking at the right time," said Saucon Valley coach Joann Ochse. "We struggled in doubles early in the season, but they've worked hard and have been improving.
"I thought they played the best they have all season at last week's District 11 Doubles Tournament and they just carried that momentum over to today. They keep surprising me with how well they are playing late in the season."
Both Jim Thorpe coach Norb Lienhard and Ochse said they weren't surprised that the match came down to No.1 doubles.
"We knew that their singles players were very good," said Lienhard. "So I had a feeling we might have to sweep doubles."
Ochse's pre-match scenario was pretty similar.
"I was confident in Dan [Fowler] and Max [Henig] at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, but I thought Jim Thorpe had an edge at No. 2 doubles," she said. "That meant we had to win either No. 1 singles or doubles.
"As the match was taking shape it became pretty apparent that the No. 1 doubles teams were pretty even and that was the match that was going to decide things."
With the others four matches complete and the team score knotted at 2-2, Devia and Coyne continued their late-season surge sending the Panthers into Thursday's semifinals against Moravian Academy and ending the Olympians' season.
The Saucon Valley duo jumped out to an early lead in the first set before having to hold off an Olympian rally for the 7-5 victory.
Trailing 4-3 in the second set, the Olympians were able to break Saucon's serve. With a chance to take the lead, Schulz and Mohn twice failed to convert a game-point before eventually losing a marathon game that featured five deuce points. The Panthers then closed things out on their serve.
"Our guys started slow and that kind of put us in a hole we could never recover from," said Lienhard about the No. 1 doubles match. "I think we fell behind 4-0 or 4-1 in the first set. We came back but couldn't quite pull it out and that made a huge difference in how both teams were able to play in the second set."
In matches that ended earlier, Saucon Valley got 6-0, 6-0 wins from both Howler, who beat Zach Ligenza, and from Henig, who topped James Denny.
Jim Thorpe countered with straight set wins from Sam Lux at No. 1 singles and Mitch Franko and Dan Meader at No. 2 doubles.
For Lux, the Olympians' loss brought an end to the most successful individual season a Jim Thorpe tennis player has ever had and one of the greatest careers as well.
"Obviously, it would have been great to win today and keep our season alive," said Lux, who won bronze medals in both the District 11 Class AA Singles and Doubles Tournaments during the past two weeks. "But the most important thing is that I really enjoyed myself playing tennis. I had so much fun. We came up a little short today, but everyone gave it everything they had."
The loss ended Jim Thorpe's season at 10-6.
"I'm very happy with the season," said Lienhard. "I thought we definitely overachieved. For the team to win 10 matches and for Sam and Zach to win third place medals at Districts were great accomplishments.
"It was a great group of kids to coach. They practiced hard and they played hard. You can't ask for anything more than that."
Saucon Valley 3, Jim Thorpe 2
Sam Lux (JT) def. Levi Wieand, 6-4, 6-4; Dan Fowler (SV) def. Zach Ligenza, 6-0, 6-0; Max Henig (SV) def. James Denny, 6-0, 6-0.
Luis Devia/Gavin Coyne (SV) def. Oliver Schulz/Josh Mohn, 7-5, 6-4; Mitch Franko/Dan Meader (JT) def. Sabastian Menendez/Atsuro Nakag, 6-3, 6-1.