NEPA Sports Nation

Mallaiah, Vivona land top seeds

By Tom Robinson,

WILKES-BARRE – Both 2022 champions return, but a standout freshman has landed one of the top seeds going into the District 2 boys tennis singles championships, which are scheduled to get underway Thursday at 9 a.m.

Western Wayne freshman Tristan Vivona is the top seed in Class 2A, which will be played at Kirby Park.

Defending champion Praneel Mallaiah from Abington Heights leads the field in Class 3A, which will be played at the nearby Wilkes University courts.

The 29-player Class 2A field and 24-player Class 3A field will feature three rounds of action Thursday to get down to the final four in each tournament.

The four semifinalists in each will come back to Kirby Park Friday at 1 p.m. for the semifinals and finals.

There are six players seeded in Class 3A and eight in Class 2A where more players, including representatives of team finalists Dallas and Holy Cross, could have made a case for being among the seeds.

Only the district champions will qualify for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state singles tournament. Singles champions are not eligible for the doubles tournament, which begins next week.

Mallaiah went 11-1 at No. 1 singles to help Abington Heights go undefeated as Lackawanna League champion. He lost only to Vivona and posted five 6-0, 6-0 victories along with two others where he lost just one game.

Michael Hamel from Wilkes-Barre Area, Sam Christman from Abington Heights and Luke Kotcho from Valley View are seeded second, third and fourth.

Hamel, a two-time district finalist, went 11-0 in at No. 1 in the Wyoming Valley Conference, winning his last five matches, 6-0, 6-0.

Mallaiah handled Hamel, 6-3, 6-0, in last year’s final and was ahead, but in a closer match, when the team quarterfinal was halted because Abington Heights had already clinched the victory.

Christman was part of last year’s district doubles championship team. He is undefeated at No. 2 singles for the District 2 champions, losing just 17 games in 24 sets during the Lackawanna League season.

Kotcho was runner-up in last year’s Class 2A tournament before Valley View moved up for the current two-year enrollment cycle. He was 11-3 at No. 1 for the Cougars.

Berwick’s Issac Gerken and Delaware Valley’s Michael Richards are fifth and sixth.

Vivona enters the district tournament on a streak of 10 straight 6-0, 6-0 victories. The only games he lost were in a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Mallaiah and a 6-0, 6-1 win over Kotcho in his second and third high school matches.

Scranton Prep’s Akhilesh Velaga is the defending champion in Class 2A, but the second seed. He went 11-2 this season, losing only to the two top seeds and taking Mallaiah to a third set.

Third-seeded Anthony Ghigiarelli from Riverside, which does not have a team, has advanced to the district semifinals where he lost to the eventual champion each of the past two seasons.

Wyoming Seminary freshman Bill Hall is the fourth seed after going 10-1 in the WVC, including 6-1 at No. 1. His only loss was in three sets to Lucas Carver, the No. 1 singles player for unbeaten, team champion Dallas.

Scranton Prep’s Ethan Borick, North Pocono’s Patrick Cawley, Wyoming Area’s Luca Argenio and Tunkhannock’s Zak Keiser are seeded fifth through eighth.

Borick joined Velaga in helping Scranton Prep take the top two singles points during its 3-2 district semifinal loss to Dallas.

Cawley, who was 9-5 at No. 1 for North Pocono, reached the semifinals last season when the Trojans were a Class 3A team.

Argenio, in his first season with the Warriors after transferring from Scranton Prep, went 8-1 in the WVC, losing only to Hamel.

Keiser was 8-3 at No. 1 for the Tigers.

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