Favorites from Gateway, underdogs from Chartiers Valley claim WPIAL doubles titles
Wednesday, April 26, 2023 | 5:42 PM
Super sophomores Adam Memije and Zidaan Hassan of Gateway met little resistance on the first day of the 2023 WPIAL boys doubles championships as the top seeds rolled to three convincing wins, losing only two games in reaching the Class 3A finals.
So when the duo did meet a challenge in the finals, they won a hard-fought first set before cruising in the second set to win WPIAL gold over seniors Deniz Finkel and Ian Kuchera of Allderdice, 6-4, 6-1.
The doubles tennis championship is the first by a Gateway duo since Mike Roberts and Alfredo Sararro won the titles in 1987.
“I think they played extremely well,” Hassan said. “We played well also and happened to come out on top this time. We played well and had to win this because we were the No. 1 seed.”
Being the No. 1 seed might bring an easier path to the finals, but it doesn’t guarantee gold.
Being the top seed brings some pressure as well.
“You don’t want to lose too early in the tournament,” Hassan said. “You don’t want to lose at all if you’re a one seed, so I guess we played through the pressure.”
The first set was a back-and-forth affair with several drawn-out points. Memije and Hassan outlasted Finkel and Kuchera in a highly competitive set, 6-4.
The second set was not as close as the Gateway duo sealed the deal in quick fashion, 6-1.
“Playing kids that you train with in the finals definitely gives you a lot of pressure,” Memije said. “It also makes it fun because obviously we are really good friends off the court, so I don’t want to be too overly excited about this win.”
The doubles championship run might help ease the disappointment the two had from the WPIAL singles championships a few weeks ago.
Memije was the top seed in the 3A bracket and was upset in the quarterfinals while Hassan was the No. 3 seed and lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Anthony Lounder of Moon.
“It does make up for it, but I’m still disappointed with how the singles played out,” Memije said. “This doubles (title) definitely makes me feel better about my high school tennis.”
The Gators duo will now enter the PIAA doubles championships next month as the top seed from the WPIAL while the Dragons duo will be No. 2 from District 7.
There was no consolation match as the duo of Cooper Friday and Mason Friday decided not to participate after losing in the semifinals, giving the Upper St. Clair team of Ronan Gibbons and Ari Plutko third place.
Only the top two district teams in 3A advance to the PIAA state playoffs.
“I definitely think we can win it all,” Memije said. “We’re really playing well in this local tournament, and I hope we can transfer that to states and win the state title.”
Added Hassan: “We’re definitely confident going into states. It’s gold or bust.”
Underdogs reign in 2A
There aren’t too many No. 9 seeds that end up winning a district championship.
Senior Liam Pederson and junior Brendon Hallisey of Chartiers Valley turned concern into triumph and eventually into gold as they defeated seniors Josh Havrillia and August Lawrence of Latrobe in the WPIAL Class 2A doubles tennis championships, 6-2, 6-3, Wednesday afternoon at Bethel Park.
“When I saw the bracket, I was like, ‘I don’t know about this. I don’t know how confident we are,’” Hallisey said. “But then in that first match, once we started playing, we were on fire.”
Pederson agreed that the duo played well with no pressure of a high seed.
“This feels great,” he said. “We didn’t go in with any expectations, and we knew we were going to play our game and do what we knew how to do, and it feels great to be rewarded for that.”
The Chartiers Valley duo galloped to the finals by beating the eighth-seeded team of Alex Garvey and Justin Kontul of North Catholic, and then Pederson and Hallisey stunned the top-seeded team of Sebastian Tan and Alex Quigley of Sewickley Academy before ousting the fourth-seeded pair of Jonah Jasek and Steven Duing of South Park in the semifinals.
“Liam and I really played well together, Hallisey said. “All throughout, we just hit it home and really had good chemistry. We took it all the way through and we’re good now.”
Their opponents were also surprise finalists as Havrilla and Lawrence were the No. 7 seeds and knocked off the No. 10, No. 2 and No. 3 seeds to reach the unique title match of No. 9 vs. No. 7.
Leading 2-0 in the first set, the third game was a long one. Both teams went back and forth between advantages and deuce.
The Colts won the game and ended up winning the first set fairly easily, 6-2.
The Wildcats duo of Havrilla and Lawrence seemed to struggle with the Colts tandem’s serves all afternoon, especially the left-handed serve of Pederson.
“I felt early on I could get in that groove and get a lot of spin under it,” Pederson said. “I know, especially as a lefty, I can get some elevation on that and some crazy spins. That’s always a key for us to win, and it was again (Wednesday).”
With a nice Chartiers Valley contingent of fans cheering them on, Pederson and Hallisey stay pumped up throughout and fed off each other’s emotions.
“Sports are an emotional thing, and sometimes there’s the pressure to uphold tennis etiquette and kind of keep it under wraps,” Pederson said. “If you’re emotional, you’re emotional. I think it helps your play, and it helps your mental state to let it out.”
Havrilla and Lawrence were trying to become the first Latrobe duo to win WPIAL doubles gold in nearly 70 years. King Hartman and Walt Berberich won the 1955 district titles.
Pederson and Hallisey are the first duo to win district boys doubles tennis crowns in Chartiers Valley history.
Jonah Jasek and Steven Duing of South Park won the 2A consolation match, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, over Nicholas Bussard and Landon Harclerode of Valley.
The WPIAL will send all four Class 2A duos into the PIAA double championships next month.
Could Pederson and Hallisey carry the momentum of an improbable district crown into the state playoffs for a lengthy run?
“Oh yeah, we’re going to see how far we can go,” Hallisey said. “We’re playing top tennis for sure. We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do with good chemistry and good shots. We hope to have fun with it.”
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