Dallastown's Schmitt, York Suburban's Diehl repeat as York-Adams tennis champs
HANOVER — Dallastown's John Schmitt lost the first set.
York Suburban's Elliot Diehl dropped the first three games of the opening set.
Not exactly the start that either player visualized before beginning their quests for second straight York-Adams League singles tennis championships on Monday afternoon.
Schmitt, though, in a flashback to the regular season, rallied for a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 victory over Red Lion's Sam Innerst.
Diehl, meanwhile, playing on an adjacent South Western High School court, staged a comeback of his own, winning the next six games and the first set. He closed out the match by taking the second set to turn back the challenge of York Catholic's Michael Andrews, 6-3, 6-3.
Schmitt and Diehl are the champions one more time, the former in Class AAA and the latter in AA.
"This match was very similar to our first one," Schmitt said. "In the last match, I became aggressive later. Today, I was aggressive sooner. That was the difference."
Schmitt changed strategy after dropping the first set, just like he did in the regular-season match.
"I was just trying to keep the ball in play early, and that clearly wasn't working," Schmitt said. "I decided I had to be the aggressor. I started hitting the ball better and forced some mistakes from him."
Schmitt elevated the level of his game big time, winning 12 of the match's final 13 games.
The Wildcat's well-placed groundstrokes, combined with strong serving (11 service winners and one ace for the match) and timely volleys, turned the tide in his favor.
"I think John realized if he didn't step up the aggressiveness, he was going to lose," Dallastown coach Mark Koons said. "Sam was dictating play. Sam was hitting the ball in the court, while John was in the red (behind the baseline)."
Koons pointed to the beginning of the second set as the key.
"We like to say that the most important game of the match is the first game of the second set," Koons said. "You could see John starting to look more confident, and Sam made more mistakes."
Innerst, an outstanding player in his own right, used a service break at four-all in the first set to put himself in position to serve out the set. The Lions' standout carried a 1-0 advantage to the second set, but Schmitt wasn't to be denied in his bid for a repeat.
"I think I like this one a little more (than last year's title), considering it was three sets, and it's my senior year," Schmitt said.
Getting one up on father: Diehl also aimed to make his final high school season a championship one.
"It was a goal from the beginning of the season," Diehl said. "It feels great to get the second under my belt. I think I might have one up on my dad now."
Craig Diehl, a former Spring Grove High School star, was a York-Adams singles champion during his career.
Diehl defeated Andrews, 6-1, 6-2, during the regular season, but the Fighting Irish senior proved a much more formidable opponent in the rematch.
"I have to give it to him." Diehl said. "He came out with a strong start. It was definitely a harder match today. After getting down, 3-0, I had to stop and take a deep breath. I knew I could come back."
Diehl said he's learned to play smarter tennis then he did a year ago.
"You don't have to hit it hard," he said. "It's all about placement. During matches, I'm also taking more deep breaths to calm myself down. My serve also definitely helped me in this tournament. It got me out of some tough situations. My volley helped me, too."
The wins by Schmitt and Diehl marked the first time there were repeat champions in both classes (AAA and AA) since the league began hosting two tournaments in 1999.
Third-place matches: Ben Sentz defeated South Western teammate Gavin Kenny, 6-2, 6-4, in the Class AAA third-place match. York Catholic's Nick Bartkowiak outlasted Littlestown's Brett Gill in the Class AA third-place match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
The top three finishers in each bracket are guaranteed spots in the District 3 Boys' Singles Tennis Tournament.
— Reach Dick VanO'Linda at email@example.com.