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Bears’ top team advances

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    Pleasant Valley’s Mike Tauer volleys at the net during Monday’s District 11 Class 3A doubles tournament. For a video visit DON HERB/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published May 07. 2019 01:28PM

BETHLEHEM – The number in front of their names meant little to Josh Schaffner and Jake Ammermann.

“The match doesn’t care what your seeding is. It’s all the same,” said Schaffner.

And the Pleasant Valley duo would know.

A year ago, Schaffner and Ammermann walked into the District 11 doubles tournament as the eighth seed, only to get bounced in straight sets in the first round.

There was no déjà vu in their return.

Schaffner and Ammermann more than lived up to their billing on Monday as the No. 3 seed, powering into the Class 3A quarterfinals at Lehigh University’s Ulrich Tennis Courts with two impressive victories.

“You have to try to ignore it — that three by your name,” said Schaffner. “You just have to play your game.”

A convincing 6-1, 6-2 win in the second round against Easton’s Ethan Gabay and Neal Gilbert put the finishing touches on a day the Bears’ pair made a statement with their play.

Schaffner and Ammermann will play No. 6 seed Quinn Erk and Aiden Springs of Emmaus in the quarterfinals.

“At the end of the day, whoever we’re playing against is just another opponent,” said Ammermann. “So we just have to go out there and play our game, and do the best we can.”

The second round triumph followed a 6-0, 7-5 win over Stroudsburg’s Drew Fieldler and Jackson Kozma in their opening match.

“I’m really happy with how we played today,” said Schaffer, who has been under the weather recently and still wasn’t 100 percent Monday. “The second match, we played a lot better than we did in the first match. I’m pretty happy with what we did today.”

Schaffner has already experienced success this postseason, reaching the semifinals of the Class 3A singles tournament two weeks ago as the fourth seed. Ammermann, the Bears’ No. 2 singles player, sat out the event.

But he was more than ready to step into the lineup Monday.

“I hit a bit of a rough patch, but I was ready for this,” said Ammermann. “I felt like I bounced back even better now. I’ve been ready for this; I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. I think we played really well today.”

In a tournament where anything can happen, Schaffner and Ammermann have proven they’re up for the challenge – and that this very well could be their year.

“I did have expectations for them to get into the quarterfinals,” said Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Allison. “But doubles is a funny game, because you never know. You play against a team that isn’t seeded, yet they’re a strong doubles team that’s been playing doubles all year, and you never know what’s going to happen. There are more upsets among seeded teams in doubles than there are in singles.”

Two other area teams reached the second round before they were eliminated.

The Bears’ Mike Tauer and Evan Thomas posted a gritty Class 3A first round win, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 over Southern Lehigh’s Drew Curtis and Spencer Goodman.

Another tough match followed in the second round, where Tauer and Thomas fell 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to No. 5 seed Andrew Hozza and Cameron Chuss of Northampton.

Tauer and Thomas were up 30-0 with the third set knotted at 4-4 before a shot went long, swinging momentum in the match. Hozza and Chuss rallied to win the game before closing out the match.

“I was really pleased with the way they played, absolutely,” said Allison. “I was really proud of them. They played really well.”

Jim Thorpe’s Raymond O’Neil and Emilio Mercado survived an epic first-round match against Saucon Valley’s Matthew Wagner and Keegan Maykut. O’Neil and Mercado won the first set 6-3, dropped the second 4-6, but rebounded to win the 10-point super tiebreaker 20-18 to move into the second round.

O’Neil and Mercado fell to No. 4 seed Ryan Hoffman and Jules Bemporad of Moravian Academy 6-1, 6-1 in the second round.

“I’m really happy with how they played,” said Olympians’ head coach Norb Lienhard. “To win that tiebreaker, they could have easily hung their heads, but they didn’t.

“And I was happy with how they played against Moravian (in the second round). They were actually hitting harder that match than I thought they were in the first match. I was really happy with how they hit. I thought they were more relaxed.

The Olympians lost two teams in the opening round, while Palmerton’s Nate Andress and Erica Messics, and Lehighton’s Mark Solt and Olivia Frendt also fell in the first round.

No. 9 seed Brendan McMahon and Aidan McMahon of Pen Argyl topped the Olympians’ Erik McLain-Walter and Robert Renode 6-1, 6-1, while Nolan Rehrig and Daniel Teets fell 6-4, 6-2 to No, 7 seed Ben Carbonetto and Ian Arnold of Allentown Central Catholic.

Andress and Messics fell 6-1, 6-2 to Hoffman and Bemporad of Moravian Academy in the first round. Solt and Frendt lost 6-0, 6-0 to top seed Cyrus Elmi and Robbie Shaff, also of Moravian Academy.

After watching Andress advance to the quarterfinals in the Class 2A singles tournament two weeks ago, Palmerton head coach Jennifer Danzeisen watched as the senior took Messics under his wing in doubles play.

“Nate is a little more experienced playing doubles, but Erica was returning their serves, and they’re strong players, and she got a couple of net shots in, too,” she said. “So I’m happy. It wasn’t an easy win for them; they made them work for it. I knew coming in that it would be tough. But watching them play, I was happy.”

Lehighton head coach Joe Zarelli hopes the Tribe’s underclassmen follow the example set by Frendt and Solt in the years to come.

“I think the biggest thing is the two of them have played tennis for a long time,” said Zarelli. “Being the top two players on our team is a product of the time that they invested in the sport. So for the younger players, it gives them the idea that the more you prepare, and the more time you put into tennis, the more you’re going to develop as a player.

“It is the type of sport where you can go out with a three-pack of balls and go serve for an hour and develop skills; you don’t need 15 kids to develop at a sport.”

WHAT’S TO COME … The Class 2A and 3A quarterfinals and semifinals will be held today at noon at Saucon Valley High School. The finals are scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at Lehigh.

(UN)PREDICATABLE … While the doubles tournaments typically present more unknowns than singles play, the first two rounds went as expected, at least in terms of seeding. All eight seeded teams in both 2A and 3A advanced to today’s quarterfinals. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

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