Facing three match points in the second set of their No. 1 doubles semifinal Wednesday at the Metro Conference tennis tournament, Papillion-La Vista South senior Sam Palensky and junior Grant Horton seemed destined for a straight-sets loss.
Instead, with their royal blue shirts and white shorts flapping in the 20-mph breeze at the Koch Family Tennis Center, the second-seeded duo turned away all three match points before snatching the second set away from No. 3 seeds Michael Knudsen and Jonny Slabaugh of Millard North.
“You get pretty nervous,” Palensky said, “but you just got to fight through it and have confidence in yourself.”
Palensky and Horton (17-5) claimed the final set of the marathon match, prevailing 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, to advance to Thursday’s championship match.
“Either team could’ve won the match,” Papio South coach Joseph Cooley said.
In the final, Palensky and Horton will meet the top seeds and defending state champions, Omaha Creighton Prep seniors Michael Koch and Niko Piperis.
The Junior Jays tandem (26-2), who collected the top doubles crowns at Papillion-La Vista’s Monarch Invitational and the Omaha Westside Invite earlier this year, lost five games over two matches en route to the final. They received a first-round bye.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” Palensky said. “They’re the favorites. They have all the pressure.”
Papio South, which leads the team competition with 34 points after one day, also sent freshman Chris Dean and junior Biraj Parajuli to the championship round.
The second-seeded Dean, a scrappy grinder who cruised through three matches in straight sets, faces the top seed, David Liu of Millard North, for the No. 1 singles title. Liu (21-0), the defending state champion, hasn’t lost a set in high school.
Parajuli, the top seed at No. 2 singles, will face second-seeded junior Nathan Singh of Creighton Prep. In the No. 2 doubles final, top-seeded Prep sophomore Stavros Piperis — also a defending state champion — and junior Peter Furlow will meet the No. 3 seeds, senior Grant Glazer and junior Camden Bilyeu of Omaha Westside. All final-round matches begin at 2:30 p.m. at the Koch Family Tennis Center.
Team scoring: Papillion-La Vista South 34, Omaha Creighton Prep 32, Millard North 27, Omaha Westside 26, Papillion-La Vista 16.5, Millard West 15.5, Omaha Central 13, Omaha Burke 7.5, Bellevue East 7, Omaha North 7, Bellevue West 4, Omaha Benson 3, Millard South 2.5, Omaha Bryan 2, Omaha Northwest 1, Omaha South 0.
Individual results: Quarterfinals: No. 1 singles: David Liu, MN, def. Guilio Cesari, ON, 6-0, 6-0. Matt Eglseder, CP, def. Gabe Shrank, MW, 6-3, 6-4. Trent Gardner, OW, def. Colin Buckley, OC, 6-2, 6-3. Chris Dean, PS, def. Daniel Erickson, PL, 6-1, 6-2. No. 2 singles: Biraj Parajuli, PS, def. Nolan Bullerdick, OC, 7-6 (4), 6-0. Matt Safranek, PL, def. Raymond Thai, MN, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3. Sean Padios, OW, def. Caleb Ashton, MW, 6-1, 6-1. Nathan Singh, CP, def. Alex Garcia, BW, 6-2, 6-1. No. 1 doubles: Michael Koch/Niko Piperis, CP, def. Tyler Hardy/Eric Schilling, MW, 6-0, 6-0. Michael Mellen/Noah Placzek, OW, def. Todd Sutter/Ben Wachholtz, PL, 6-0, 6-1. Michael Knudsen/Jonny Slabaugh, MN, def. Matthew Burns/Jack Stobbe, OC, 6-0, 6-2. Sam Palensky/Grant Horton, PS, def. J.P. Duryea, Zach Pullen, OB, 6-0, 6-0. No. 2 doubles: Peter Furlow/Stavros Piperis, CP, def. Eric Daubach/Enrique DelRio, OB, 6-2, 6-0. Nick Bockman/Ben Palensky, PS, def. Nate Pigsley/Mitch Porter, MW, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. Grant Glazer/Gamden Bilyeu, OW, def. Grayson McCartney/Adam Bartels, PL, 6-4, 6-3. Andrew Bristol/Brent McKnight, MN, def. Noah Martinez/Sean Cavalieri, OC, 6-2, 6-2.
Semifinals: No. 1 singles: Liu, MN, def. Eglseder, CP, 6-1, 6-1. Dean, PS, def. Gardner, OW, 6-4, 6-1. No. 2 singles: Parajuli, PS, def. Safranek, PL, 6-2, 6-2. Singh, CP, def. Padios, OW, 6-3, 7-6 (4). No. 1 doubles: Koch/N. Piperis, CP, def. Mellen/Placzek, OW, 6-4, 6-1. S. Palensky/Horton, PS, def. Knudsen/Slabaugh, MN, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4. No. 2 doubles: Furlow/S. Piperis, CP, def. Bockman/B. Palensky, PS, 6-3, 6-2. Glazer/Bilueu, OW, def. Bristol/McKnight, MN, 6-3, 6-2.
Packer coach, team honored
The Metro Conference announced its 2012 all-academic boys tennis team, coach of the year and team sportsmanship award. Omaha South coach Andy Mullin received the Metro Coach of the Year award and his squad won the Metro Team Sportsmanship Award.
Academic All-Conference team: Bellevue East: Nate Fischer. Bellevue West: Cole Stenger, Chris Crockrom, Robert Dusek. Millard North: Rohan Khazanchi, David Liu, Michael Knudsen, Jonathan Slabaugh, Brent McKnight. Millard South: Darin Voelker, Zach Warneke, Austin Bryant. Millard West: Gabe Shrank, Caleb Ashton, Eric Schilling, Tyler Hardy. Omaha Benson: John Julin, Nick Miners, Alonso Castillo, Sun Kit, Dalyon Conway. Omaha Bryan: Josh Gardner, Grant Cannon, Christian Cannon, Luke Doyle, Dmitri McIntosh, Joel Wagman. Omaha Burke: Eric Daubach, Zach Pullen, Melvin Tyree. Omaha Central: Colin Buckley, Matthew Burns, Sean Cavalieri, Noah Martinez, Jack Stobbe. Omaha Creighton Prep: Michael Koch, Niko Piperis, Stavros Piperis, Peter Furlow, Matt Eglseder. Omaha North: Noah Concannon, Ben Stahr, Jonathan Williams, Parker Wyatt. Omaha Northwest: Eduardo Gonzalez, Toluwani Faokunla. Omaha South: Abdi Abdirahman, Yusef Abdirahman, Malik Ammons-Keyes, Ira Dale. Omaha Westside: Michael Mellen, Noah Placzek, Grant Glazer, Camden Bilyeu. Papillion-La Vista: Todd Sutter, Ben Wachholtz, Adam Bartels, Daniel Erickson. Papillion-La Vista South: Sam Palensky, Nick Brockman.
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