When North Allegheny junior Kevin Goth played Pine-Richland junior Caleb Kramer in the first section match of the season March 19, Goth was rusty.
He had barely played in the offseason due to a shoulder injury and the match against Kramer was his first against a high-level player in seven months.
Kramer won in straight sets.
"[Goth] was a little tentative early in the season, but as the season progressed, he has gotten more confident and just started letting loose," North Allegheny coach Dom Gliozzi said.
Goth took down Kramer in the section rematch April 5, 6-4, 6-4. Just a few days later, the two met in a "rubber match" at the Class AAA Section 2 singles tournament.
"I was expecting a tough match," Goth said. "I figured it would be a long one with a lot of tension and that's how it played out."
Goth rallied for a 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3 victory, his second consecutive section singles championship.
"It was great for me and great for our school," Goth said. "I wasn't really expecting to be able to get back here after not playing in the offseason."
Gliozzi thought Goth looked lethargic in the first set, while Kramer came out well to take the one set lead.
But Goth rebounded by grinding out a win in the tiebreaker in the second set. Despite his section title hopes being on the line, Goth said he didn't get nervous.
"I was pretty calm," Goth said. "In my mind I had nothing to lose. The kids from other schools were cheering against me and my teammates were cheering for me. It was a good atmosphere."
Goth went on to win the third set, which earned him the No. 3 seed at this week's WPIAL Class AAA tournament.
He said prior to the district tournament that he expected to have a tough quarterfinal matchup, and that's what he got. Goth lost to Upper St. Clair sophomore Fernando Escribens, 10-7, in a pro set to end his chances at making states in singles.
Last season, Goth came within one match of qualifying for the PIAA singles tournament, losing in the semifinals.
But he'll still have a shot to make it to Hershey in the doubles and team tournaments over the next few weeks.
The Tigers entered the week with a perfect record in section play. North Allegheny was also perfect in section play last season at 12-0. The Tigers lost, 3-2, to Mt. Lebanon in the 2012 WPIAL Class AAA team semifinals.
"We're stronger than last year and doing great so far," Goth said. "I think we have a good shot at making states."