Hendricken beat La Salle 4-3 in the last match of the regular season, and Saturday’s semifinal meeting between the two was shaping up in exactly the same fashion.
Except that the Hawks’ blueprint was starting to show some cracks. With four matches complete and the score tied at 2-2, the No. 1 doubles team of Carlos Arciniegas and Kelan Sullivan and No. 3 singles player Zach Prinscott found themselves in battles. The Hawks had picked up both those points in the regular-season meeting, but it wasn’t going to be easy this time. The Rams were making their push.
But Hendricken found a way.
Arciniegas and Sullivan won a hard-fought first set 7-5 then battled back from a 40-15 deficit to win the sixth game of the second set for a 6-3 victory.
Meanwhile, Prinscott – who had won the first set 6-3 – battled back from a 4-0 deficit in the second set and won a tiebreak 7-5 to clinch the dramatic victory for the Hawks.
“It was a thrilling semifinal win,” said head coach Mike Haxton. “I knew it was going to be close.”
La Salle had a 2-0 lead after wins at No. 2 singles and No. 3 doubles. Marco Amendola beat an ailing Evan Chomka 6-0 in the first set before Chomka retired in the second set due to a wrist injury. At No. 3 doubles, Tyler McCourt and William Norton-Bliss topped Christian Boyer and Marcus Caron 6-0, 6-3.
The Hawks came back to tie the match with wins by Jack Hoy at No. 4 singles and Nick Walsh at No. 1.
That set the stage for a dramatic finish.
After winning the tough first, Arciniegas and Sullivan fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 in the second set before hitting their stride. They broke the serve of La Salle’s Curtis Dyer to tie the score at 2-2, then rolled to a win in the next game. After that, they won in deuce to take a 4-2 lead.
La Salle came back to win the next game, then pushed each of the next two to deuce, but the Hawks prevailed to clinch the 6-3 victory.
With the No. 2 doubles match in a third set and still very much up in the air, attention turned to Prinscott, who was in the midst of a dramatic comeback. After trailing 4-0, he won four straight games. La Salle’s Nathan Ray took the next game to go up 5-4, but Prinscott broke Ray without allowing a point to tie it at 5-5.
Ray won the next game, but Prinscott again was undeterred and forced a tiebreak by winning one of the longest games of the match.
In the tiebreak, Prinscott went up 4-0 before Ray battled back and eventually tied it at 5-5. But Prinscott was in control on the next two points and won both to clinch the 7-5 win, sealing the victory for the Hawks.
“Everybody was watching,” Prinscott said. “I knew in my heart I wasn’t going to let the team down. We knew from day one that we were going to get to the finals against SK. I battled back and I helped this team win.”
The victory over La Salle moved the Hawks into the finals for the first time since 2009. South Kingstown beat Barrington in the other semifinal.