Buckhorns battle back from unseeded spots to upset heavily-favored opponents
Eric Miller and Jeff Alderfer came within a whisker of an unprecedented accomplishment at this year's District Two tennis tournament.
Wallenpaupack Area's top doubles team entered the event unseeded, but promptly embarked on an historic run.
Over the course of two days, Miller and Alderfer recorded one upset after another on a path which led all the way to the Class AAA finals.
There, Paupack's streak finally came to an end at the hands of the tourney's top seeded team. Delaware Valley rallied from a late 5-2 deficit to post an epic three set victory.
The final score was 6-2, 0-6, 7-6.
"Because they were unseeded, Eric and Jeff were on the court so much longer than everybody else," Coach Jim Ball said. "They played terrific tennis, but they just ran out of gas."
In addition to Miller and Alderfer, Paupack entered a second team in the District Two tourney, one that was very nearly as successful.
Reed Evans and Billy Reese were also unseeded in the Class AAA bracket and faced an equally daunting task.
Neverthless, this dynamic duo also notched a pair of impressive wins before finally being knocked out in the quarters.
Paupack's lone loss came courtesy of Andrew Neidig and Dan Hartzman, that very same DV squad which eventually captured the district doubles title.
"I'm very proud of them," Coach Ball said. "Nobody gave Reed and Billy much of a chance, but those two guys went out there and fought hard right to the bitter end."
Miller and Alderfer began their gold medal quest Thursday at Kirby Park.
The Buckhorns opened their Class AAA slate with a straight set win over West Scranton. They defeated Joe Godino and John Wattman by a score of 6-2, 6-3 which earned them a date with Williamsport Area in the next round.
Paupack posted its second straight set win of the day, rolling to a 6-4, 6-4 decision over the Millionaires Nick Mele and Justin Smith.
"Eric and Jeff have really good chemistry," said Coach Ball. "They hadn't been together as a doubles team long, but their styles of play complement one another very well."
That chemistry was on display in the quarterfinals, where Paupack squared off against the #3 seed Crestwood.
The Buckhorns fought hard in this one against the Comet duo of Ross Gladey and Alex Machalick, grinding out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win.
This victory earned Miller and Alderfer a trip to the semis and an encounter with Abington Heights ... a match with enough drama to qualify as an instant classic.
Paupack dropped the first set to Eric Onofrey and Steven Shields, the second seeded duo from Clarks Summit.
However, the Bucks bounced back to take the second set 6-3 then sealed the deal with a wild 7-6 in the third.
"We haven't beaten Abington at anything tennis-wise in a very long time," said Coach Ball. "So, for Eric and Jeff to prevail in a third set tiebreaker was pretty exciting."
Alderfer accounted for the highlight of the match, unleashing a sizzling second serve ace to give the Bucks a 6-5 lead. One point later, it was all over and Paupack was off to the finals.
There they encountered the top seeded team from Milford and another epic match unfolded.
Once again, Miller and Alderfer dropped the opening set. This 6-2 loss lit a fire under the Bucks and they responded with a 6-0 second set blitzkrieg.
Sadly for local fans, Paupack simply ran out of steam in the third. The local lads pushed Neidig and Hartzman to a tiebreaker, but ultimately came out on the short end of a 7-2 score.
"I knew Eric and Jeff had potential," Coach Ball said.
"But, you're always at the mercy of the draw, especially when you're not seeded. These two kids just made an incredible run against some brutal competition ... and they just about won the whole thing.
Evans and Reese opened their tournament with a dominating performance in the preliminary round.
The Buckhorns hammered out a straight set (6-2, 6-0) win over Hazleton Area's Mauro Notaro and Anthony Sidaro.
Paupack then faced the bracket's #8 seed, Pittston Area, in the next round and carved out a thrilling three set victory
Evans and Reese took the opening set, but the Patriots rallied to claim the second. Finally, the Bucks rallied to win the match with a 6-3 decision in the third.
Their path to a District Two medal was blocked once and for all by the eventual champs from DV.
"Reed and Billy both did a phenomenal job that day," Coach Ball said. "The only team that beat them was the one that was seeded first and went on to win the entire tournament."