West Xtra: Carlynton's Phillips earns berth in PIAA singles tournament

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Luke Phillips was only cleared to play tennis again two days before the start of this season.

But less than a month later, Phillips, a freshman representing Carlynton High School, is a section singles champion and a PIAA qualifier.

Phillips, a Crafton resident, won the Class AA Section 5 title last week against 2013 state qualifier Matt Lynch of Bentworth, winning in straight sets, and then beat Lynch again in the consolation final Tuesday, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), to punch his ticket to Hershey in May for the state tournament.

"Matt played a great match [Tuesday] and I'm relieved to get through," Phillips said. "I'm just looking forward to competing in Hershey."

To get to this point, Phillips had to overcome a stress fracture in the lumbar vertebrae in his back, which he said he injured due to repetitive tennis training. The injury forced him to sit out two months as he went through physical therapy. He said he returned to the court "a little rusty."

"I definitely [was rusty]," Phillips said. "But I've been hitting with my dad pretty regularly and our new coach has been great. He's really been working with me and I feel like I'm back and playing very well now."

Kyle Maines took over the Carlynton coaching position this season. He said he knew of Phillips' ability when he took the position.

"I knew all about him before I interviewed for the job and I knew a big role of the job would be pushing him to be even better," Maines said.

Maines has worked a lot with Phillips before and after practices, considering Phillips has a flexible schedule due to attending a cyber school, Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. Under PIAA and WPIAL rules, he is allowed to compete for Carlynton because he resides in the school district.

Phillips said his usual schedule has him going to school for four to five hours in the morning and early afternoon before working on his tennis game for four to five hours. He then hits the books again at night.

"This is the second year I've done the cyber school and it works really great with my tennis schedule," Phillips said.

In addition to hitting with Maines, Phillips hits around a lot with his father and sister at the Oxford Athletic Club.

Phillips' father, Mark, played tennis at Carlynton and Allegheny College and is now a tennis pro at Oxford. Phillips' sister, Hannah, a sophomore, has won the Class AA Section 5 girls singles tournament the past two seasons.

Another one of his partners at Oxford is Josh Raymundo, a sophomore at Mars Area who defeated Phillips in the WPIAL semifinals Monday in three sets.

That forced Phillips into an elimination match against Lynch Tuesday, but Phillips showed his resiliency with the hard-fought win.

"As Clint Hurdle says, 'Shower well,' and that's what I did," Phillips said. "I just tried to get that off my shoulders and get ready for [Tuesday's match]."

Now Phillips can start getting ready for a trip to Hershey next month.

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