KINGSTON — The top seed in the Class 2A singles field didn’t waste much time — or effort, for that matter — in leaving his mark on the District 2 boys tennis tournament.
For a few other hopefuls from the Wyoming Valley Conference, the tourney’s opening day at Kirby Park proved a lot more difficult and much less successful.
Wyoming Seminary star Henry Cornell reached the district semifinals with a pair of powerful straight-set victories Friday that showed why he came into the tourney as the first seed.
“I think I’m playing good tennis now,” said Cornell, who will face No. 4 Keller McGovern of Scranton Prep in the district semifinals at 1 p.m. Monday at Kirby Park with the championship match to follow. “I just need to stay focused on Monday.”
After a first-round bye, Cornell dominated Western Wayne’s Zach Hall 6-0, 6-0 in the second round, then roared past Tunkhannock’s Cory Dulsky, 6-4, 6-1 to end a quarterfinal set in little more than an hour.
“My first match was a good one,” said Cornell, who has lost just one match all season. “I started slow in the next one, but I picked it up in the second set.”
As it turned out, Cornell will have to pick up the torch for the WVC. He was the only player from the conference to reach the semifinal round in Class 2A or 3A, although a few others made strong runs before falling short.
Cornell’s Wyoming Seminary teammate Chris Kim rallied hard in his quarterfinal match before falling to third-seeded Rob Azzarelli of Holy Cross, 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 6-2.
“That is disappointing to me,” said Kim, the No. 4 seed.
And in Class 3A, Pittston Area’s unseeded Trent Woodruff battled hard before falling to No. 5 seed Dipan Shah of Scranton, 6-2, 6-3. And Rishi Mulloth, the No. 6 seed, upended Crestwood’s No. 3 seed Ross Gladey, 6-4, 6-3 in another quarterfinal match.
“He just got everything back,” Gladey said. “Kind of frustrated me a little bit.”
Mulloth, standing as the shortest player in the tournament at 5-foot-1, played a patient, yet tenacious match against the 5-11 Gladey with a style that belied the size discrepancy between the two.
“I grinded, keeping the ball in,” said Mulloth, who will face second-seeded Andrew Neidig of Delaware Valley in one semifinal match Monday while No. 1 seed Jai Redkar of Abington Heights battles Shah in the other 3A semi. “But I still played aggressive when I needed to.”
“Tennis is that sport,” Gladey said, “where you don’t really have to be a big muscle guy to win it. You can have a tall guy or a little guy play well. He played great. He’s a good player.”
The best match, and easily the longest — at least competition-wise — was the showdown between Kim and Azzarelli.
The first set alone took around 90 minutes — about half the total time of the match, to complete — with long, extended rallies and endless determination by both players.
Kim recovered from an early four-game deficit to rattle off five straight wins, only to drop a 7-3 tiebreaker. Still, the run seemed to spark Kim, who pulled out a 6-3 victory in the second set and was even in the final set, 1-1, when rain began falling at Kirby Park.
The conclusion of that tennis tussle was moved indoors to the Kingston Indoor Tennis Center, where Azzarelli’s hard backhands and wicked serves decided the match within 30 minutes.
“I came back from being down 5-2 to go up 6-5,” Kim said, shaking his head over the first-set defeat in his quarterfinal match. “I don’t know, I didn’t keep focus. I gave it up in the tiebreaker.”
Azzarelli will await the winner of another quarterfinal match between No. 2 Will Cognetti of Scranton Prep and Francois Ross of Dallas, who will meet at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Birchwood Racquet Club. That delay came when district officials allowed Ross to break from the tournament for a few hours and return to Dallas High School to take scheduled testing for college that was previously scheduled for that time.
“They were nice enough to let him go back and let him get his testing done,” Dallas coach Joe Pugliese said. “Actually, he played better this afternoon than he did this morning. He was so worried about getting back to get his testing done, he just was not focused.”
Now, they’ll all focus on a District 2 title.
“I was hoping we could both make it to the semis,” Cornell said after watching Kim’s close defeat. “I was hoping for an all-Sem final like last year. But that doesn’t happen every year.”