HANOVER -- On the bus ride to South Western on Thursday afternoon, Dallastown boys' tennis coach Mark Koons told his players they had an opportunity to make their mark in the sparkling legacy of the Wildcats' program.
The players seized the opportunity by rallying for an unforgettable 4-3 victory over South Western in a matchup of York-Adams Division I unbeaten teams.
Dallastown didn't clinch the title, but it established itself as a strong favorite to win its second championship in four seasons and eighth in the last 12 seasons.
The Wildcats entered doubles play trailing, 3-2, but they swept both matches to improve their league record to 4-0 and overall mark to 8-1. South Western, which won the last two Division I crowns, fell to 2-1 and 4-2.
The match consumed four hours and required the lights to complete.
Dallastown's Kyle Salaga and Michael Gibbs won No. 2 doubles, 6-0, 6-1, to set the stage for John Schmitt and Payce Berridge at No. 1 doubles.
The Wildcats' duo appeared on the verge of losing a three-set duel, but they fought off a match point and rallied from 5-2 deficit in the deciding set to defeat South Western's Anthony Miserendino and Quin Meyer, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
Schmitt, a sophomore, sealed the deal by putting away a volley for the final point of the match.
"It's amazing to win this match," Schmitt said. "This is the match we were looking forward to this season. I was nervous, but I was also disappointed because I lost in singles, and I didn't want to lose both of my matches."
Schmitt and Berridge raised the level of their games and began getting to the net at just the right times in the doubles clash.
"Coach Koons is all about doubles, and he tells us never give up," Berridge said. "It doesn't matter if it's 5-0. To come up here to South Western and win under the lights is great."
Berridge and Gibbs earned singles victories for the Wildcats, and Miserendino, Meyer and Ben Sentz triumphed in singles for the Mustangs. Miserendino is the reigning York-Adams League singles champion.
Schmitt, who jumped from No. 7 on the Dallastown tennis ladder to No. 1 this year, pushed Miserendino hard in the first set, but the Mustangs' standout dominated the second set, winning, 7-6 (5), 6-1.
"I played a lot in the offseason, and I hit with Payce," Schmitt said. "I came out (in the singles match), and I competed today but after the first set, I had a letdown."
Schmitt and Berridge appeared to be going down in doubles, but they refused to lose.
"Those two guys don't have an ounce of quit in them," Koons said. "I told them (when they were down 5-2) that it's not like basketball or soccer, the clock won't run out so keep fighting."
Dallastown, following two consecutive second-place finishes behind South Western, is in position to finish at the top of the standings this season.
"One thing I do want to say is that Kristen (South Western head coach Kristen Meyer) runs a class program, and she and her players have great sportsmanship," Koons said. "I feel we have a mutual respect for each other."
OTHER BOYS' TENNIS
CENTRAL YORK 7, WEST YORK 0: At Central, Chris Maderitz won in singles and doubles to power the Panthers. Hunter Brown, Josh Strickler, Tyson Chen and Rapheal Hotea also earned singles wins.
CORRECTION: Because of incorrect information supplied to the Dispatch, the victorious boys' tennis doubles teams for York Catholic were wrongly reported in Thursday's sports section for their match on Wednesday vs. Littlestown. The winning York Catholic doubles teams were: Scott Bartkowiak and Isaac Higgins at No. 1 doubles and Tim Hartinger and Michael Andrews at No. 2 doubles.
-- Reach Dick VanOlinda at dvanolinda@yorkdis patch.com.