Boys tennis wins state title


By Eshan Singh, Staff Reporter

The Lower Merion Aces’ boys’ tennis team had not lost a match for two seasons. Conestoga broke its streak on May 20, when the Pioneers defeated the Aces 3-2 in the state championship final.

After losing the first two matches to the Aces, ’Stoga came back to tie the score 2-2. The team was in danger of losing the deciding match in the third set, but the doubles pair senior Vincent Yao and sophomore Raphie Lubiniecki saved a championship point and ended up winning the set in tiebreakers, giving ’Stoga the state title.

“I was so relieved and proud when we won,” junior Derek Qin said. “We’d (beaten) Lower Merion for the first time in a few years, and we did it while showing better sportsmanship than them.”

Conestoga also played Lower Merion in last year’s state final, but lost 3-1. Despite the disappointment, head coach Brittany Aimone had a positive outlook on this year’s season.

“With only one graduating senior,” Aimone said, “We’d have most of the players back, and I knew it would be a great learning experience that they could use as fire going into this season.”

The team’s morale was unaffected by its losses to the Aces during the regular season and in the district finals. If anything, according to Qin, the defeats gave the players extra motivation.

“Losing in the Central League and in districts wasn’t too big a deal,” Qin said. “Obviously winning would have been nice, but at the same time I don’t think our team would have worked as hard had we won before.”

When state championships finally came, Conestoga dominated. The Pioneers advanced through the first three rounds without dropping a single match, but so did Lower Merion, setting the stage for a state title rematch.

After the first two matches, it looked like the Aces would win states again. However, Aimone remained confident.

“I knew where we’d struggle, I knew where we’d be victorious, and I knew where it would be super competitive,” Aimone said.

After senior Justin Xu won his match in straight sets, the only matches left were the doubles, which both went to three sets. After Yao and Lubiniecki won their tiebreaker, which won the team the championship, the players exploded with joy.

“Everyone was screaming and yelling,” junior and player Basil Lubiniecki said. “It was very loud.”

The team played with more energy in the finals and hit riskier shots, which paid off.

“I’ve never seen players like Aaron (Sun) or Basil or Voyin (Markovic) get so fired up before, and it was so much fun to watch,” Qin said.

Winning the championship was wonderful for everyone involved with the team.

“I was overcome with the utmost joy,” Aimone said. “I was and am so proud of those boys. They are truly a special group, and I wanted it so (badly) for them. They deserve it.”

Eshan Singh can be reached at [email protected].