Moon senior Anthony Lounder, Winchester Thurston freshman Austin He take WPIAL tennis titles
Wednesday, April 12, 2023 | 6:33 PM
A senior playing his third WPIAL tournament and a freshman making his WPIAL debut took home boys tennis singles championships Wednesday afternoon at Bethel Park High School.
Both Lounder and He overcame not only their opponents but also windy conditions, facing the sun for part of their matches, and some of the warmest temperatures of the spring.
“I actually like playing with the wind a lot,” said Lounder, who won the first WPIAL singles title in the history of Moon boys tennis. “A lot of my matches this season have been super windy. I definitely had a ton of experience playing in the wind and being able to strategize.”
Lounder led Collier 3-2 in the first set and then held serve and broke Collier for a 5-2 lead before finishing off the set.
He was in control from there.
“Once I won the first set and then got up 3-0 in the second set, I really was feeling comfortable,” Lounder said. “I knew that I didn’t have to go for anything crazy. I just wanted to play my same game and trust that I could finish it out the way I did.”
Lounder’s high school journey was stymied at the start as the 2020 season, his freshman year, was canceled at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
He lost in the WPIAL first round in 2021 and fell to eventual champion Jake Patterson from South Fayette in last year’s quarterfinals.
Lounder’s path to this year’s title included consecutive wins over North Allegheny players in the Section 2 semifinals and finals. It was his first section title after finishing runner-up the previous two years.
“This is very cool,” Lounder said. “Jake had been here the last two years and was the ace of the WPIAL. Actually, I’ve got to train with him a lot. It’s exciting to follow him and take the title. It means a lot to me.
“I’ve also reached my goal of being able to qualify for states. I don’t have any clue about states or who is going to be there, but I am going train as much as I can over the next month to be ready for whatever comes my way. To get to states and also win the (WPIAL) title, I am pretty happy with that. ”
Lounder and Collier are the only two from WPIAL Class 3A who will advance to states, set for May 26-27 at the Hershey Racquet Club.
“It is such a great achievement for Anthony,” Moon coach Mike Lucente said. “He’s always adding things to his game every year. He’s very resilient. He has never let any of the losses stick with him for too long. He stuck through everything and kept his focus and now he is a WPIAL singles champion.”
Harmon and He, as well as semifinalists John Rohrkaste, a sophomore from Montour, and Jackson Gillespie, a junior from Aquinas Academy, knew they had secured berths to states with their respective quarterfinal wins as four players from Class 2A qualify.
But the four battled to stay alive for the title through the semifinals, and He stood tall in the end.
He is the first boys’ player from Winchester Thurston to claim a WPIAL singles title since 2011 when Daniel Goldblum won the second of his two championships.
“That’s nice to hear,” He said of returning the Winchester Thurston name to the top in WPIAL boys tennis.
He led Harmon 4-2 in the first set before winning the last two games to close it out.
Harmon wouldn’t back down in the second set as he held leads of 2-1 and 4-3.
But He was just too strong and rallied to hold serve and break Harmon before serving out the match at 5-4.
“It was a nice surprise to be a No. 1 seed,” He said. “There was some pressure, but I knew that if I played well, I could win.”
He said his serve and forehand helped him through to the victory.
“My net play wasn’t really working for me today, but I feel it was stable enough so I could pull through,” He said.
He said he also was able to manage his game when the wind would whip up.
“It is really hard to hit overheads and stuff like that when the ball is moving like that,” He said. “But it’s for both of us, so I can’t really be complaining.”
He and Harmon are no strangers to each other having played together and head to head in tournaments.
“(Those matches) were a really long time ago, different surface, and we played each other mostly indoors,” He said. “It was windy today, so it was a different play style.”
He said he is looking forward to seeing what he can do at states.
“States is indoors at Hershey, which are fast courts, and I like fast courts,” said He, who returns to Hershey after playing there in a tournament some five months ago. “First, there’s going to be no wind, which is nice. It’s going to be fun. We’ll see what happens.”
Winchester boys tennis coach Joe Camillo said He played within himself and didn’t get rattled.
“This was, by far, his toughest match,” Camillo said. “He faced adversity well. Conditions were tough at times with the wind and the sun on the one side. He had to serve for the match on that side, and he really stepped up. He’s a real player, and I wish him so much luck as he goes for it at states.”
The Class 2A consolation match for third place went to Gillespie in straight sets, but his win wasn’t an easy one against Rohrkaste.
Gillespie, the No. 3 seed, and Rohrkaste, seeded fifth, went to a first-set tiebreaker. Gillespie, a WPIAL quarterfinalist last year as a sophomore, then finished off the win, 6-3, in the second set.
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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