HERSHEY, Pa. - He did not want to go down without a fight.
Despite having tired legs after a draining semifinal just a few hours earlier, Holden Koons was determined to avoid a straight set sweep in the PIAA 3A tennis championship on Saturday afternoon at the Hershey Racquet Club.
The Dallastown junior was facing a familiar foe, District 1 champ Sameer Gangoli, a sophomore from Great Valley. At this elite level, these guys are all good friends and have played each other many times.
Disappointed after dropping the first set 6-1, Koons rallied in the second set, forcing a tiebreaker. Koons won the tiebreaker 8-6 to even the match at one set apiece.
But he ran out of steam after that, falling 6-2 in the third set to give Gangoli his first state title.
Almost all of the top players in the state are either sophomores or juniors, so the rivalries will likely continue next year.
This was Koons first appearance in the state final. After losing in the quarterfinals last year, Koons was trying to become the first tennis champ from the YAIAA since West York's Brian Nachtigall in 1999.
Koons said he felt he had a good tournament overall, calling the final "incredibly physical," especially after playing three long matches in 24 hours.
"I had a really long match (on Friday), and another long match this morning, I was going into that one pretty tired," said Koons. "So going out and having another one, I didn't expect it to go that long again. I was out of gas the entire time, to be honest. I just kept gutting it out, and I think he raised his game in the third set for sure."
After this exhausting stretch of matches, Koons said he'll probably take a few days off to rest before getting back on the court.
The next challenge for Koons will be something new, his first tournament playing on grass -- the ITF Grass Court Championship in Haverford, PA.