Michael Swope and Gavin Kelly began a friendship in elementary school that likely will continue at Penn State University in the fall.
The current Palisades seniors also further tightened their bond when they began playing varsity tennis four years ago, mainly due to a hunch from Swope.
“I was just picking up a racket now and then and would play on vacations,” said Swope. “I figured I would try out for the team as a freshman, and I wanted to coax Gavin to come with me.
“We both tried out and it has been a fun four years.”
Both Swope and Kelly not only made it a memorable year for them, but they also helped contribute to make it an eventful one for the program.
The Pirates posted an overall 11-6 mark and they advanced to the district semifinals as a team, losing to eventual champion Moravian Academy.
“We had a really good season, and it arguably was one of the best in school history,” said first-year head coach Frank Reppert. “We had a number of boys back and they all played together well.”
Along with Swope and Kelly, juniors Tim Gehman (No. 3 player) and Sean Johnson (first doubles) both improved their games and proved to be difference makers in deciding matches.
Swope and Kelly paired as a doubles team that advanced to the District 11 Class 2A finals. Each of them also had strong years overall as the team’s No. 1 and 2 players respectively. Swope had a 13-4 mark, while Kelly was 14-3.
“I thought it was an exciting year for us,” said Swope. “Mr. Reppert came on as a first-year coach and did a great job.
“It was great to get to the district doubles with Gavin.”
Swope noted the last match of the season against Moravian’s Robby Schaff in the district semifinals as his best outing of the year even though he was on the end of a 6-3, 6-2 defeat.
“That was the best match that I played,” he said. “Even though I ended up losing, I realized how much hard work I put into the season and how much I improved.”
Kelly recalled an earlier season match against Southern Lehigh in which he was up 4-0 only to have the match suspended due to rain. Three days later, he returned to play and won it, 6-3, 6-0.
“I had the weekend to think about it,” said Kelly. “I came back and played like it was love-all. It was one of my better matches. I was confident coming back and I wanted to improve my seeding in the league. It was about being in the moment.”
Even though both are headed to Penn State, they won’t be roommates.
They do both plan on playing some club tennis in college.
Swope believes this past season helped the program gained more respectability.
“A lot of people underestimated us,” he said. “We were able to catch some teams off guard. There should be some exciting times ahead for the program.”