When Palo Verde boys tennis doubles team of Tanner Berkabile and Pascal Nilsson won the first set of their state play-in match 6-1, it looked like they would cruise to victory over a Green Valley duo that only had played five previous doubles matches.
But the Gators’ Jake Cahill and Caleb Camp had other plans.
Cahill and Camp rallied for a 7-6 (2) tiebreaker win to force a third set, but the ultimate victory went to the Panthers, as they broke through to the state tournament with a 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-3 triumph.
“Before the third set, I told (Nilsson) to keep every ball in,” Berkabile said. “They weren’t making any amazing shots; we were making ourselves miss. We just had to keep the balls in and let them miss, and I thought we could come back and win that third set.”
Forcing — and winning — the second set tiebreaker proved to be a good moral victory for the Gators, who battled to third place in the Sunrise Regional despite having never played together during the season.
“We gave it our all, had a couple of good weeks of tennis,” Camp said. “I think we made a good team, but maybe we just crumbled under pressure. Doubles is new for us, but I think we did a great job.”
Cahill added: “They (Berkabile and Nelsson) are a tough team. It was all them. It wasn’t like we lost; they just beat us.”
In the boys singles play-in match, Bishop Gorman’s Kyle DelRosario edged Coronado’s Mathew Dees 7-5, 7-6 (3). DelRosario later said the on-the-court action was only part of the difficult match.
“It was tough,” he said. “He had me running everywhere. He almost got to me with all the talking and arguing about every call; he did that a lot. But I managed not to snap — I almost did, but I managed to keep going.”
DelRosario finished off the first set with an acrobatic behind-the-back return that sailed the full length of the court and bounced past Dees for the 7-5 win.
In the girls play-in matches, Spring Valley’s Tiffany Tavares cruised to a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Alyssa Boman of Green Valley in the singles match. Liberty’s doubles tandem of Valerie Nesenhoener and Ashley Wao-Udin downed Bishop Gorman’s Caroline Engs and Taylor Larreau 6-2, 6-1.