Schaffner, Andress fall at districts
Pleasant Valley’s Jordan Schaffner prepares to hit a backhand during Wednesday’s District 11 Class 3A singles tournament. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
ALLENTOWN – Mark Allison’s embrace told the story.
As the Pleasant Valley tennis coach draped a medal around Josh Schaffner’s neck, it signaled another milestone for the always-improving junior.
Schaffner rose through the ranks to become the Bears’ No. 1 singles player a season ago, showing promise and potential during an impressive campaign.
An appearance in the District 11 Class 3A semifinals Wednesday at Parkland High School affirmed Schaffner’s ascension to become one of the area’s best.
“I think he continues to improve as a tennis player,” Allison said of Schaffner. “I’m just so happy for him, that he won a medal, because he’s such a great kid. He represents our school really well. I’m just really happy for him. He’s worked really, really hard, and he so deserves it. I’m just thrilled for him.”
Schaffner posted a 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Whitehall’s Nick Rohn in the quarterfinals before falling to top seed Sean Jaeger of Emmaus 6-0, 6-1 in the semis.
After a second round exit a year ago, Schaffner entered this season’s tournament as the No. 4 seed in the Class 3A event, a distinction he more than proved himself worthy of.
“I’m really happy with the tournament,” said Schaffner, who lost in the first round as a freshman. “My goal was to make the second day. My quarterfinal match was really tough; he (Rohn) was playing so well. And playing Sean (Jaeger) obviously I was up against a really tough opponent, so I just tried to play the best that I could.
“I’m happy. I made it to the semifinals, and that’s better than I ever thought I could have done.”
Palmerton senior Nate Andress also reached the second day of the tournament in the Class 2A bracket for the first time as the sixth seed. Andress fell 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) to No. 3 seed Michael Swope of Palisades in the quarterfinals.
“I made a lot of progress, I’d say,” Andress said. “In the first match of the year (March 13) I played him and it was 6-2, 6-4. So to win a set, and then go to a tiebreaker in the third set, it shows I got a lot better.”
Andress and Schaffner have authored seasons dotted with signature moments. The duo added a few more during their respective runs in the district tournament.
Schaffner showed his mettle on Monday, outlasting Parkland’s Dan Zolatarev in a second set tiebreaker to reach the quarters. His resolve was tested against the unseeded Rohn, who shook off a slow start to force a third set.
“Obviously, I would love to not have a mental battle out there,” Schaffner said with a smile. “But when I won the first set, I thought. ‘OK, I’m doing good.’ But in the second set, he started playing really well, and that was really a rollercoaster.
“It kinda messed me up a little bit, but I got through it, and I made it (into the semis) and I was happy. It didn’t affect my next match, but I was happy that I made it through that match.”
Schaffner battled against Jaeger, the defending 3A champion. The game he won in the second set was the first Jaeger had allowed through four matches in this tournament.
“That was really good that I was able to hang with him, and I really think that that could go a long way for my confidence,” said Schaffner. “That will definitely help my game next year, knowing that I tested the best kid in the district. We’ll see what happens now.”
What Schaffner showed is that he is ready to take another step forward next season.
“I thought he had a good district tournament last year, he obviously had a better one this year,” said Allison. “He’s progressed, and I think he’ll continue to be one of the top in the district. Knowing Josh, he’ll work real hard on his game, and he will be near the top again; he’ll continue to be near the top.”
Andress has been a staple as the Bombers No. 1 singles player, and has notched victories in the district tournament each of the last three years.
But second round setbacks had been his undoing until a breakthrough in his match against Pen Argyl’s Brendan McMahon on Monday.
The fight he showed against Swope was indicative of the player Andress has become over the past four years.
“He gave him a run,” said Palmerton head coach Jennifer Danzeisen. “I knew he could beat him, and he did in the first set. He played for over two hours, and showed that he absolutely should be here.
“Nate has been with the program since he was a freshman, he loves the sport, and he’s good at it. He’s worked at it all year long, and he deserves to be in these semifinals, like the other players.”
Andress trailed 6-2 in third set tiebreaker before rallying with three straight points before Swope closed out the match.
“When I would serve on the deuce side, he would hit to my backhand, and there was nothing really I could do,” said Andress. “I would just try to push the ball back, but it was tough.
“My gameplan coming in was just to hit to his backhand and try to get a nice approach shot, run to the net and try to close the point out. I did that, but not enough.”
REMATCH … The Class 3A final will feature Jaeger and Nazareth’s Gabe Knowles, the No. 3 seed, for the second straight year. Jaeger took the title season ago, winning 6-3, 6-3.
REDEMPTION … The Class 2A final will be a battle between top seeds Tej Laliwala of Saucon Valley and Robbie Shaff of Moravian Academy. Also the top seed a year ago, Laliwala fell to Moravian Academy’s Daniel Elmi 7-6, 6-0 in the final.
SAVE THE DATE … Both the Class 2A and 3A finals will be Thursday at 2 p.m. at Lehigh University.