Butler tennis secures revenge on Shady Side
Eagle Staff Writer
The Butler boys tennis team earned its shot at redemption, then used it to make history.
The Golden Tornado faced Shady Side Academy in the PIAA Class AAA championship match Saturday in Hershey.
It was the same Indians squad that defeated Butler, 3-2 in the WPIAL final May 14.
This time around, it was Butler that came away with a 3-2 win.
With the match tied 2-2, Will Nesbitt battled Shady Side's Alok Nimgaonkar in the No. 3 singles match.
After winning the first set 7-6 (4), Nesbitt dropped the second set 6-1.
The third set led to yet another tie-breaker, with Nesbitt winning 7-6 (7) and handing the state title to Butler, which finished the season with a record of 22-1.
"I got off a pretty good first serve and he was unable to return it," said Nesbitt of the final point. "I couldn't believe we were state champions."
"The last team state title at Butler was in 1980 when the gymnastics team won it," said Butler coach Dave Hartzell. "(Butler athletic director) Curt Phillips is checking to see if there have been any more."
Nesbitt had faced Nimgaonkar in the WPIAL team finals, with the former winning 6-2, 6-1.
"Will is just a sophomore and the kid he faced is a freshman," said Hartzell. "So it was a battle of young players, but there weren't many unforced errors. It was played the way a state championship should be decided."
Once the final match started, Nesbitt focused on his game.
"I didn't think about the pressure much," he said. "I think my teammates felt more pressure than I did."
Butler welcomed the rematch with Shady Side.
"We felt we had a good chance against them," said No. 2 singles player Evan Kowalski. "Teams from the WPIAL usually do well at states and we felt both teams had a good shot at getting to the final match."
Still, it was the Indians who won the first two matches of Saturday's championship.
The Tornado needed and received victories from Kowalski, Nesbitt and the No. 1 doubles team of Zac McCafferty and Stefan Kemp.
"The entire weekend, every time we needed a win, somebody would step up and get it for us," said Hartzell.
That included Friday's 3-2 quarterfinal win over top-seeded Council Rock North.
That match was also tied 2-2 before Matt Slamecka, Butler's top singles player, won his match 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
"The kid I faced, I was 0-4 against him before Friday's match," said Slamecka. "I had to play my best tennis to beat him."
Butler then beat Radnor, 3-1 in the semifinals to set up the rematch with Shady Side.
"Seniors on spring sports teams have a tendency to lose their focus because graduation is coming up and there's just a lot of different things on their minds," said Hartzell. "But our seniors remained focused the last few days and I think that was a big key for us."
The state title run, as well as the drive to and from Hershey, has led to memories Butler's players will not soon forget.
"As the season progressed, we got closer as a team," said Kowalski. "Especially in Hershey, we really bonded out there."
"I was still in shock on the drive home," said Slamecka. "It's such a great accomplishment."
HEROICS IN HERSHEY
Following are results from the three matches the Butler boys tennis team won in Hershey to claim the Class AAA state title.
Butler 3, Council Rock North 2
Singles: 1-Matt Slamecka won 4-6, 6-4, 7-6; 2-Evan Kowalski won 6-2, 6-4; 3-Will Nesbitt won 6-3, 6-4
Doubles: 1-Zac McCafferty/Stefan Kemp lost 0-6, 6-2, 4-6; 2-Emil Kemp/Kemper May lost 2-6, 2-6
Butler 3, Radnor 1
Singles: 2-Evan Kowalski won 6-1, 6-4; 3-Will Nesbitt won 6-3, 6-4
Doubles: 1-Zac McCafferty/Stefan Kemp won 7-5, 7-6; 2-Emil Kemp/Kemper May lost 6-1, 6-2
Butler 3, Shady Side Academy 2
Singles: 1-Chris Mengel (SSA) def. Matt Slamecka 6-1, 6-0; 2-Evan Kowalski (B) def. Vivek Nimgaonkar 6-3, 2-6, 6-4; 3-Will Nesbitt (B) def. Alok Nimgaonkar 7-6, 1-6, 7-6
Doubles: 1-Zac McCafferty/Stefan Kemp (B) def. Ben Cohen/Justin Hunt 7-6, 6-2; 2-Aaron Budd/Samuel Miller (SSA) def. Emil Kemp/Kemper May 6-2, 6-3