Peters Township senior Mitch Kreider admitted the sight was a bit strange when he looked across the tennis court for the championship match of the WPIAL Section 5-AAA singles tournament at Trinity Middle School and saw teammate Brendan Dollard.
Both had reached the finals after Monday’s preliminary rounds, and Kreider even had the foresight to wear a jersey from last year – one the freshman on the other side of the court didn’t have. But nothing seemed to make this feel normal, a match pitting Peters Township’s No. 1 player against its No. 2.
“It’s really nerve-racking because even though I know I’m ahead of him on the team, there’s nothing for him to lose,” Kreider said. “He can go out and play and play as hard as he can. I have everything to lose here. There’s no benefit to winning, really, because I’m supposed to be better.”
In the end, Kreider was better – 6-2, 6-2 better - as he cruised in a match that lasted just 51 minutes Tuesday afternoon. Kreider overpowered his younger teammate with a blistering serve that darted in and out, spinning this way and that.
“His serve was incredible,” Dollard said. “It kept going everywhere.”
If Dollard was looking for help from Peters Township coach Brandt Bowman, he wasn’t going to get it. While coaches will routinely talk to players between sets, Bowman hung back, not wanting to favor one player over the other.
“I just let them coach and play their match,” Bowman said.
Bowman had actually hoped to have Kreider and Dollard play one another this season, but the weather and a backlog of matches didn’t allow it. Bowman was busy having Dollard play senior Jake Floyd to iron out his No. 2 and 3 spots, something that still hasn’t been completely fleshed out.
“I think it’s a good experience for Brendan,” Bowman said. “Brendan can learn a lot from that, learn what he needs to improve on.”
Kreider broke Dollard early and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set with an overhead smash.
Kreider ceded his first service point while dropping the next game. Dollard closed to 4-2 on a Kreider error before Kreider tucked a winner inside the right corner to win a long point and record his second break.
The second set featured another overhead smash – Kreider plays a very aggressive game – for a break and a 2-1 lead, and another overhead winner from close produced a 4-1 edge for Kreider.
Dollard did a nice Kreider impression, recording an ace to make it 4-2, but the 21-minute second set concluded with two more quick wins from Kreider, the highlight a cross-court, backhand winner midway through the final game.
“We had to settle down, Kreider said. “It helped that we were wearing different jerseys.
“It helped the nerves a little bit because I could play more like he was a normal opponent rather than a teammate.”
Both players advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA singles tournament next Monday and Tuesday at Shady Side Academy High School. … Canon-McMillan freshman Chris Gladden, who was expected to challenge Kreider, suffered an injury Sunday and did not participate in the tournament. … Eighty Four resident Matt Lynch, who was competing as a one-man team for Bentworth, defeated Greensburg Central Catholic’s Bargo Patel 6-2, 7-6 (2) for his second consecutive Section 1-AA title yesterday at Mt. Pleasant High School. For more on Kreider’s win, visit The Varsity Letters blog at observer-reporter.com.