South's Pronesti one win from state tennis title

PORTLAND — Pushed to a third set for the first time all year, his perfect season on the line, South Medford's Matt Pronesti could have panicked.

Instead, he sharpened his focus and pulled off his biggest win yet.

"He just needed to calm down a little bit, that was all," South head coach McKenzie Hilmer said. "When he was losing in the second set, he just got too down on himself, and by calming down and playing his game he was able to get it back."

The sixth-seeded Pronesti overcame the second-set letdown to knock out No. 2 seed Brent Wheeler of Sprague in the Class 6A state semifinals, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, on Friday at Portland Tennis Center.

Earlier in the day, Pronesti toppled fourth-seeded Gram Leahy of Jesuit in the quarterfinals, 6-2, 6-4.

Pronesti, a junior, improved to 12-0 and secured a spot in the title match against top-seeded Stuart Tierney (Glencoe), who beat third-seeded Brent Chin, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in the other semifinal. The final is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Beaverton.

Playing in his first OSAA final four match, Pronesti, who lost in the quarterfinals last year, withstood his toughest test of the season against his USTA doubles partner, Wheeler.

"Basically, they're both really good players," Hilmer said, "and it's just who can stay focused and mentally tougher out there."

That proved to be Pronesti, who mixed a strong baseline game with opportunistic net charges to break Wheeler twice in the third set.

"He was doing really good at his baseline game and waiting for the right ball to come up and put it away at the net," Hilmer said. "When (Pronesti) would get an approach chance he would come, and his hands at the net are just amazing."

South Medford's top doubles team also won a match Friday before being eliminated in consolation play. South's Max Goldman and Jon Gerlick teamed up to defeat Jon Vongsa and Brandon Chanthanousaney of David Douglas, 8-3, in the first round of consolation play, then fell to Riley Wulf and Ricky Manley of South Salem, 8-2.

"They both had a great season," Hilmer said of Goldman, a senior, and Gerlick, a junior. "They were singles players first and we switched them so they would be able to go to state. So they made it, and that was their goal."

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