By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
NEWTON TWP. – Will Aldrich and Gavin Bednarz are senior athletes at Scranton Prep.
On the tennis court, however, they are mere rookies.
They are also champions.
Aldrich and Bednarz combined for the decisive point Wednesday when Scranton Prep defeated host Abington Heights, 3-2, on the final day of the Lackawanna League season to give the Cavaliers the title in the battle of unbeatens.
The match pitted long-time powers, both with 12-0 records, against each other, but it was up to the newcomers to decide things.
“We both picked up a racket on the same day, like two months ago,” Aldrich said.
Teammates on Scranton Prep’s District 2 Class 4A basketball championship teams the past two seasons – Bednarz was the leading scorer on the team this season and also played on the championship teams in his freshman and sophomore seasons – they did not need long to make an impact in their new sport.
Aldrich started from the first match and Bednarz, coming off an illness, joined him for the third match. They have been paired together since and have lost just once.
As the season progressed, they worked their way into a prominent position.
All the other Lackawanna League teams lost early, pointing everything toward Wednesday, the final day of the regular season in District 2.
Then, the courts around them at the Abington Heights Middle School began to clear out as the other matches were decided, with the Cavaliers and Comets each winning two points.
That left it all up to the No. 1 doubles match between Aldrich-Bednarz and Michael Rodyushkin-Ryan Salony, which, because of how competitive it was throughout, was still early in the third set.
Those four players gave their teammates plenty to react to while they watched and waited for the title to be decided.
Rodyushkin-Salony took a 5-3 lead in the third set before Aldrich-Bednarz managed to force the second tiebreaker of the match.
Once there, Aldrich-Bednarz never trailed, scoring the first two points of the race to seven and building a pair of three-point leads before closing out the 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) victory.
“I think it’s absolutely crazy that that happened,” Aldrich said of the match coming down to the newest additions to the powerhouse program, “but I’m just happy that we took care of business.”
Aldrich, the taller of the partners, ended it at the net with an overhead smash.
“All season, Gavin and I have our strengths,” Aldrich said. “He’s really good at groundstrokes in the back and I’m better at the net.
“That’s what we did. We used our strengths to our advantage and we took care of it.”
Bednarz, who is used to having a basketball in his hand in tense, late-game situations, enjoyed the tennis spotlight.
“We just kind of started tennis, this is our first year, so to end up in an atmosphere like that, I couldn’t be happier,” Bednarz said. “It was really fun.
“I had never played before this year, then I started picking it up. I had a couple of friends on the team that really helped me out, Matt Tressler and James Cawley. Those guys really showed me what to do.
“Will and I started together and I think we developed really well.”
Tressler and Cawley contributed more than their recruiting to Wednesday’s win.
They won at first and third singles, providing the other points necessary to hand Abington Heights its first league loss since three years and three days earlier when the Cavaliers also defeated the Comets. Abington Heights went 14-0 in 2019 and there were no spring sports last year.
Tressler defeated Matt Weis, 6-2, 6-4, at first singles and Cawley’s 6-1, 3-6, 2-6 victory over Adam Vale gave the Cavaliers a 2-1 lead.
Abington Heights posted the days two most decisive victories.
Sam Christman defeated Ethan Borick, 6-1, 6-1, at second singles.
Then, Luke Morgan-Quinn Hamilton completed a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Ben Hall-Seth Miller at second doubles to create the 2-2 tie and put all the attention on first doubles.
“They were gaining a lot of momentum,” Bednarz said. “ … We decided we had to keep driving balls and playing it long, just to keep them away from the net.
“We started to get more and more of our serves in as the match progressed. I think that helped us and we pulled it out.”
In doing so, they stopped the Abington Heights league winning streak at 27 matches and returned Scranton Prep to the top.