CLARKS SUMMIT — Tension heightened in the crowded observation deck at Birchwood Tennis & Fitness Center.
Abington Heights and Scranton Prep players battled on the courts below, insulated from the occasional eruption of applause.
Abington Heights’ Lauren Koczwara traded shots with Scranton Prep’s Carly Habeeb as each tried to survive long rallies.
On the court next to them, the Lady Comets’ doubles team of Sidney Horvath and Isabel Holland were matching Scranton Prep’s Claire Kelly and Stephanie Carolan.
Back and forth they went as teammates, family and friends patiently waited for the players to flip the score placards at the breaks.
Then, a two-hour marathon match that moved indoors because of heavy rain ended in seconds.
After Koczwara scored a winner to claim her three-set singles match and even the overall score, Horvath-Holland earned the final point in the No. 2 doubles match.
The fast finish unleashed a roar from the fans after an emotional comeback victory for Abington Heights, 3-2, on Monday in a showdown of the premier programs in the Lackawanna League.
Abington Heights (6-0) earned its first win in the series since 2014.
“It was so exciting in the end,” Koczwara said. “It was funny. Almost immediately after I finished, they won and we all just looked at each other and started screaming.
“We were so excited that we finally won against Scranton Prep.”
Scranton Prep (7-1), however, got out to a quick start.
Camilla Rinaldi won in straight sets, beating Brooke Dennison, 6-1, 6-0, at No. 3 singles.
“I knew that it was going to be a really tough match,” said Rinaldi, who improved to 7-0 this season. “I knew that I had to get a big win for our team and lock that point down. I needed to boost the morale of the team.
“I think I played a strong match. After the first set, I felt very confident in my game.”
Then, Abington Heights’ Bella Peters, who is ranked No. 18 among freshman by Tennis Recruiting Network, got her team rolling.
She showed off her powerful serve and forehand in a win over Megan McDonald, 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 singles that tied the match, 1-1.
“I was nervous at first, because I knew this would be one of the toughest matches of the season,” Peters said. “I kind of knew I had to play my game and maintain being cool, while focusing on my shots.”
Julia Horchos and Madison Tratthen teamed to defeat Keena Jackson and Holly Ross at No. 1 doubles, 7-5, 6-2, giving the Classics a 2-1 advantage.
Then, the focus shifted to the drama-filled matches still being contested.
Climbing to the No. 2 singles slot in the ladder because of an injury to Clare DellaValle, Koczwara played with poise in taking the first set, 7-5.
In the second, Koczwara appeared headed for a sweep when Habeeb, a returning All-Region player, fought back to 6-6 and won four of the first five points in the tiebreaker. She closed it out, 7-3, and knotted the match with a 7-6 win in the set.
After the break, Koczwara jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Then, Habeeb earned
her first win in a game that featured an 18-stroke rally and then won three of
the next four to close to within 5-4.
Koczwara responded, occasionally glancing to the audience above her, and remained undefeated in 19 career league matches to make it a 2-2 match.
“That felt so amazing,” Koczwara said. “I was very, very stressed. I didn’t know I was going to pull it off. I just had to keep my head in the match and watch my shots.”
Abington Heights’ Horvath-Holland won the first set, 6-4, before Scranton Prep’s Kelly-Carolan stormed to a 6-1 win in the second.
“I knew it was the third set and we needed it to win and there was a lot of pressure,” Horvath said. “I feel like we really buckled down and made the shots we needed to make.”
Scranton Prep’s pair won the first two games and led, 3-2, at a break. However, Abington Heights’ duo won four of the next five for a clinching 6-4 win.
“Me and Sidney like to joke around a lot, so we were really cheering for each other,” Holland said. “Every time I focused too much on the point, because I am a nervous person, I would mess up.
“Sidney just told me to relax and then it all happened for us.”
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Abington Heights 3
Scranton Prep 2
Singles: Bella Peters (AH) over Megan McDonald, 6-1, 6-1; Lauren Koczwara (AH) over Carly Habeeb, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4; Camilla Rinaldi (SP) over Brooke Dennison, 6-1, 6-0.
Doubles: Julia Horchos-Madison Tratthen (SP) over Keena Jackson-Holly Ross, 7-5, 6-2; Sidney Horvath-Isabel Holland (AH) over Claire Kelly-Stephanie Carolan, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
Records: AH 6-0, SP 7-1.