Gateway boys tennis team caps special season in PIAA semifinals
Sunday, May 28, 2023 | 11:01 AM
The Gateway boys tennis team surged to the top of WPIAL Class 3A this season and made its mark with a run at the PIAA tournament.
First-year coach Emily Levine said it was a special feeling to be a part of it all with her players and to see the team enjoy the success it achieved, including its first section title since 1992 and its first WPIAL team title in 35 years.
“We had so much support, from all of the staff members at the school, the community, the students, so many people,” Levine said. “It was an exciting time. Everyone asked how the tennis team was doing. There’s now an excitement behind being a part of the team. We definitely made our mark, and we ended on a high note. Now, we’re excited to see where this season takes the program for the future.”
Gateway’s run in the PIAA playoffs came to a close in the semifinals against District 1 runner-up Conestoga, 3-0.
The Pioneers went on to defeat District 1 champ Lower Merion in the finals.
In the semifinals, Gateway suffered losses in both doubles matches. Conestoga clinched the match when Pioneers senior Justin Xu defeated sophomore Zidaan Hassan, 6-0, 6-3, at No. 2 singles.
“Zidaan gave it his all in the match and played hard,” Levine said. “His opponent was really talented.”
That gave Conestoga an insurmountable lead.
The other two matches — sophomore Adam Memije at No. 1 singles, and freshman Logan Memije at No. 3 singles — were discontinued in an agreement of both coaches.
Adam Memije lost a first-set tiebreaker and was set to begin his second set, while Logan Memije split his first two sets (1-6, 6-2) and was headed to a deciding third set.
“Conestoga was a really great team with great players, and they ended up winning the state title, so we don’t feel too bad about that,” Levine said.
Gateway kicked off its run to the state semifinals with a 3-2 win over Manheim Township at North Allegheny. The win allowed the Gators to advance to Hershey for the quarterfinals.
“It was a really positive start for the guys,” Levine said.
Gateway then toppled District 1’s Unionville, 3-2, in the quarterfinals.
The Memije brothers and Hassan swept the singles matches against both Manheim Township and Unionville.
“The players were a little disappointed they didn’t get to their ultimate goal of a state title, but at the same time, they were proud of how far they came this season,” Levine said.
Gateway went a combined 5-2 in the WPIAL and PIAA team tournaments and finished the season 12-3 overall.
The state team tournament didn’t mark the end of the season for Hassan and Adam Memije. The WPIAL Class 3A doubles champions were set to compete Friday and Saturday at the PIAA doubles tournament in Hershey.
The Gateway program bids farewell to a pair of senior starters in Zach Meshanko and John Falbelli.
This was Meshanko’s first season on the Gateway team, and he played No. 1 doubles the entire season.
“He came to the team wanting to make an impact on the roster, and he did,” Levine said. “We were thankful that he came out. He played such a positive role. He came in with raw talent, and improved all year.”
Meshanko played in the Section 1 doubles tournament with Logan Memije, and the duo made it to the semifinals before falling to the Franklin Regional duo of senior Aaron Allen and junior Dhruv Kulkarni.
“Playing with a high-level player like Logan forced Zach to really show what he had,” Levine said.
Because of injury and other factors, Meshanko played with three different partners.
Junior Matt Bandos, who teamed with Meshanko at No. 1 doubles, suffered a shoulder injury during the WPIAL team tournament. Falbelli stepped into the mix for the title match against North Allegheny and remained there through the three PIAA matches.
“John was ready and willing to play, and he stepped into the role,” Levine said. “He and Zach did the best they could not having the whole season to work together.”
Bandos’ injury, Levine said, doesn’t require surgery. With rest and rehab, he will be able to return to the court in the offseason and be ready to play next spring.
“Matt did travel with us to states and supported the team,” Levine said. “He was still a big part of the team.”
Newcomers in junior Blake Marsh and freshman Troy Boden, Levine said, got better as a team at No. 2 doubles throughout the season.
“Both are very athletic players, and we look forward to seeing them continue to practice and play over the summer to see where that leads them into next season,” Levine said.
Despite six of the seven starting spots owned by players returning from this season, Levine said that there will be opportunities for returning team members and those new to the program to compete to get into the lineup.
“We had a big team with 15 members and four seniors leaving, and we anticipate everyone else returning,” Levine said. “We look forward to seeing the work they put in over the summer and what they are able to build up in their games for next season. This is a special team to be a part of, and they want to make their impact on the roster.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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