WEXFORD – The coronavirus pandemic reduced the number of teams qualifying for the PIAA doubles championships this spring to the top two duos from each of the state’s 16 districts.
Franklin Regional seniors Anup Nadesan and Advait Kulkarni defeated North Allegheny’s Chase Davidson and Shomik Telang, 6-3, 7-5, in the WPIAL Class AAA boys doubles championship match to earn those spots in the state tournament set for May 28-29 at the Hershey Racquet Club.
Yet there were many reasons why the consolation match between Mt. Lebanon’s Jack and Luke Wilke, and Peters Township’s pair of Ellian Ascencio and David Lusk, carried weight.
“It can be tough to get up for third place. It’s not a state qualifier or anything,” explained PT coach Brandt Bowman, “But I told (my) guys, it’s better to be third than fourth.”
Third mattered for two more reasons – a bronze medal and an alternate berth in the PIAA doubles championships.
“In the times we are living in with protocols and guys getting injured, you never know what can happen,” added Bowman.
What happened during the Section 4 tournament a week prior to the district matches factored into the consolation outcome. The Wilkes twins dropped a three-set match to Ascencio and Lusk, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, in the finals.
So the WPIAL third-place match held Wednesday offered redemption and the Lebo brothers got it. They turned the tables and defeated the PT tandem, 6-4, 6-3.
“We did not play well,” Jack said of the section final.
“Everybody has bad days,” added Luke.
Inconsistent in their play, the pair said they stopped taking the hard shots and decided to play it safe in the consolation match.
As a result, the pair felt they played “smart” in general and since they are twins, “chemistry” was on their side.
The attacking style of the Wilkes brothers did not surprise the Indians. They are the No. 1 duo for Mt. Lebanon, which competes against Peters Township in team competition. The Blue Devils and Indians had squared off in a section match earlier in the week.
“There’s a lot of familiarity between us,” Bowman said, “but Lebo played better than us. They played the big points better. In matches like this it comes down to a few points hear and there. So it was a close, hard-fought match.”
With team playoffs set to start May 3, Ascencio’s scholastic career is nearing a close. A two-sport standout, he will continue to play tennis and golf at Westminster College.
Last fall in golf, Ascencio led the Indians to a third-place finish in the WPIAL, shooting a low-score 77 in the team finals at Cedar Brook Country Club.
In tennis, Ascencio is the Indians’ No. 1 singles player.
Two years ago, he combined with Connor Bruce to win a PIAA championship in doubles. The pair were also WPIAL runners-up.
“For a guy whose second sport is tennis, Ellian has had a great career,” said Bowman. “He’s very talented and he’s been a solid player in singles. So, he’s really had a good career.”