BOYS TENNIS: Dragon tennis advances to PIAA quarters

ERIE – The District 10 champion Warren boys tennis team won its first round match in the PIAA team playoffs on Tuesday with a convincing 4-1 win over Vicentian, out of District 7, from Pittsburgh, at Pennbriar Club.

Sophomore Nate Sandberg, playing third singles, was the first player done with a dominant 6-1, 6-1 win over John Michael DiVonato.

“Nate is the most efficient player on the squad,” said Warren coach Jeff Bartsch, whose Dragons are 15-0 heading into a PIAA quarterfinal match on Friday vs. defending state champion Wyomissing at Hershey Racquet Club. “He doesn’t waste time and he goes right after his opponent from the very first point to the last. His match was completed in less than an hour.”

Senior Matt Sandberg was locked in a battle of wills as he was down 2-5 before staging a comeback and taking the first set in a tie-break at 6-all.

“Matt used his athleticism to cover every ball and take advantage of his 6-3 frame,” said Bartsch. The tie-break was won 7-2 giving the first set to Warren.

On court two, “Matt Sandberg battled a hard-serving Brad Martin and got every return back into play,” said Bartsch. “Long rallies and athletic moves enabled the Dragon to win the second set 6-3. Now, the Dragons led 2-1 in matches.”

Prior to Matt Sandberg’s win, top singles player, and D10 singles champ, Shane Burns was battling Derek Chen, a sophomore WPIAL singles champion.

“This was an interesting match,” said Bartsch. “Chen has an all-court game and tremendous quickness to cover anything Shane threw at him. Chen prevailed 6-1 in the first set. Shane battled back, got a bit more comfortable and worked hard to earn three games in the second set.”

Now the match was in the hands of the doubles pairs. Highly motivated, the top Dragon pair of Nick Tarpenning and Grayson Foley took it to Mike Haberman and Zarig Moore and crushed the first set 6-0. The second set was all Dragons as Warren prevailed 6-2 to notch Warren’s third win of the day.

In second doubles, the Warren senior pair of Ylli Bakalli and Liam Boger took the first set from Jen and Gottschalk by a 7-5 score. With the team match decided, the Dragons opened up and cruised to a 6-1 win in the second set. The final score was 4-1.

This was Warren’s second trip to the state playoffs and it will be their second straight trip to the state quarterfinals on Friday morning (8 a.m.) in Hershey.

“We are among the elite eight in the state,” said Bartsch. “These boys have worked hard to get where they are and we are all very proud of them and their accomplishments.”

The Dragons face Wyomissing from District 3, also undefeated and the defending Class AA state champions. Wyomissing eliminated Warren last season by a 5-0 score.