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Two-year span over for winning Tigers tennis team

05/14/21 Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Hollidaysburg's Ben Johnson (right) returns a shot to Central Mountain as doubles partner Haddy Obeid watches in the District 4-6 Class 3A team tennis championship.

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Hollidaysburg boys’ tennis team’s season last year after one match, coach Brian Denis believed a team district championship was in the making for the Golden Tigers.

“We had pretty much the same guys, plus a couple of extra guys, we thought, ‘Man, 2020, we’re going to be district champs.’ When they canceled it, it was like ‘Man, we had a team district team championship taken away from us,'” he said.

They had to wait another year, but it was worth it.

The top-seeded Tigers captured their fourth title in the last seven seasons as they edged Central Mountain, 3-2, in the District 4-6 Class 3A boys Team Tennis Championship at the Tiger Tennis Center Wednesday afternoon.

“(Monday’s match with Altoona), was so tough mentally,” Denis said. “I was hoping we would be able to respond and come back with energy. I want people to realize how difficult it is to win a District 6 team tennis championship. With just the two classifications, we are always going up against Altoona, State College, Williamsport, Central Mountain.

“They’re all quality teams this year. Any one of the five teams could’ve very easily won this tournament, and to have to win two tough matches on back-to-back days, I just hope the boys appreciate what they’ve accomplished. It’s such a tremendous achievement.”

The Golden Tigers grabbed two-out of-three of the singles matches as they picked up wins from senior Brian Johnson — 6-1, 6-0 over the Wildcats’ Ethan Hall — and Jadd Younes triumphed over Jackson Walker, 6-0, 6-1.

“He’s a great player,” Johnson said of his opponent. “Everyone I’ve played this year has not been a cake walk. Thankfully because of our athletic director (Homer DeLattre), we’ve been able to play a lot of tough opponents.

“Today especially, I knew I wanted it. I knew I was the better player, and it had been everything I’d been working towards all season and anything to help the boys out.”

Johnson also mentioned that circumstances have given him an appreciation for just how hard it is to win a district title.

“You gather a whole new perspective on the situation whenever you’re able to go through something this life-altering,” he said. “It’s an incredible feeling nonetheless. You really have to appreciate the programs themselves, you have to appreciate the parents, you have to appreciate the staff, you have to appreciate everyone who actually makes this possible.”

Haddy Obeid and Ben Johnson capped off the championship with a victory on the doubles front over Nate Brinker and Leisher Gugino, 6-2, 6-0.

Before the match, Pennsylvania State 80th Congressional District Representative Jim Gregory presented the Tigers’ head coach a citation for his 500th victory which he celebrated back on March 19t following a win over Huntingdon.

Denis was surprised by Gregory’s gesture.

“I honestly got choked up,” he said. “I honestly had no clue. Homer said it was supposed to be a surprise. That certificate, that will be one of the most valued things I’ve ever accomplished because I know how many people have been a part of that.

“How many players, how many parents, my assistant coaches over the years. 500 wins number means absolutely nothing to me, but the memories and the players, all those people play a part in that citation. It was a pleasant surprise,” he said.

Hollidaysburg, which improved to 19-0, will now face the runner up from District 3 on Tuesday at a site and time to be announced.

SINGLES: 1, Lindsay, CM def. Barton, 6-1, 6-0; 2, Br. Johnson, H, def. Hall, 6-0, 6-1; 3, Younes, H, 6-0, 6-1.

DOUBLES: 1, Obeid-Be. Johnson, H, def. Brinker-Gugino, 6-2, 6-0; 2, Talbot-Porter, CM, def. Clarke-Gallagher, 4-6, 6-1, 16-14.

Records: Central Mountain (13-6), Hollidaysburg (19-0).

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