Log In

Reset Password

Area players ousted from D-11 tourney

BETHLEHEM - Blustery conditions prevailed during the first and second rounds of the District 11 Singles Tennis Tournament on Monday at Lehigh University.

But at the end of the day, the higher seeds didn’t let the conditions impact them as they all won their matches.

On the local front, three qualifiers competed - Lehighton brothers Bayto and Bekim Cokrlija along with Pleasant Valley freshman John Hargrave.

In a match that lasted nearly 75 minutes with long back-and-forth rallies, No. 8 seed Bayto Cokrlija advanced to the second round by defeating No. 9 seed Xavier Shive- Sanchez of Bethlehem Catholic, 6-4, 6-4. The Lehighton junior (who went 9-0 during the regular season) used a strong forehand, accompanied by some backhand slices to win the close match.

“My final point in the deciding match was a slice just over the net that he couldn’t get to,” Bayto said.

In the second round, he played No. 1 seed Devin Pandez from Saucon Valley, who had defeated Bayto’s brother, Bekim, in the first round. Pandez, the reigning District champion, showed why he will be tough to beat again this year with a 6-0, 6-0 victory.

“Pandez is a real quality opponent,” said Lehighton coach Cody Schuler. “I just think that Bayto was a bit tired facing him after a long first round match.”

“He was a way better player,” said Bayto. “He put his shots wherever he wanted to.”

Sophomore Beckim Cokrlija also lost in straight sets to Pandez. Schuler called Bekim a “stellar tennis player” with all-around skills.

“He is especially good with his forehand and his ball placement,” said Schuler. “He’s got to keep a cool head when he plays the best competition, not get frustrated, and move onto the next shot or the next game. It would have been fun if the brothers played each other in the second round,” Schuler added, “but it was not to be today.”

“I thought I played well with my forehand, but I didn’t return the ball well when I went to my backhand,” said Bekim, who was 8-1 during the regular season. “My slices were decent, too. He was very good at spinning and back spinning the ball along with having a really hard shot.”

The Bears’ Hargrave (8-5 regular season) entered his Class 3A match unseeded and lost in straight sets to No. 2 seed Gideon Knowles of Nazareth. Bears’ coach Laura Ammermann praised Hargrave for making districts with such little competitive tennis experience behind him.

“John’s game has become very diversified,” she said. “He can spin the ball, and he gets to pretty much everything. He gained a high level of experience today. He kept up with the No. 2 seed well. John needs to work on his serve, especially his second one, but with three more years, his tennis future is very bright.”

Hargrave analyzed his performance.

“I thought my serve got better as the match went on, but not so much my forehand. He was a really good player, especially at the net where he slammed the ball really hard which made it difficult to return.”

BROTHERLY LOVE … Bekim and Bayto play tennis against each other when they are not competing for their school. Asked who wins, Bayto said, “I do, but I try to give my brother some tips to improve his game.” The pair will play together on Thursday in the District 11 doubles tourney.

YOUNG RACKETEERS … All three local players that had qualified for the District Tournament are looking forward to returning next year and hope to advance to the final eight come next April.

Lehighton's Bayto Cokrlija returns a ball during the District 11 Singles Tennis Tournament on Monday at Lehigh University. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Pleasant Valley's John Hargrave shakes hands with opponent Gideon Knowles of Nazareth following their match. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS