It was the spring of 2019, and Pequea Valley’s boys tennis team was putting together its list of goals for the upcoming season.
“We didn’t go into last season thinking we were going to have a state championship run or anything like that at all,” PV tennis coach Eric Burns said. “Our team had never even made states before. I knew we were going to be pretty good — our guys always compete and fight — but we certainly didn’t go in thinking anything like that.”
Fast forward three months and — voila — there was PV, hoisting the PIAA Class 2A state team championship gold trophy inside the fabled Hershey Racquet Club, after a 3-2 victory over Conrad Weiser.
“Every now and then it hits you,” Burns said, “and it’s like — whoa! — we really did that.”
“We got shirts and jackets after winning the state championship,” PV all-star junior Brady Burns said, “and I wear the heck out of those, you better believe it.”
While the shirts and the jackets and especially the gold trophy are all nice, PV was denied a chance to defend its title when the governor shuttered schools and the PIAA canceled the spring sports season on April 9 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
No season. No journey. No repeat.
“When you come to our courts now, you have to walk past that state championship sign,” said Eric Burns, Brady’s dad. “You’d like to at least be able to go out and defend that title.”
It won’t happen this spring; PV got one match in the books — a 5-0 nonleague victory over Warwick on March 13 — before the season was halted. There will be no champions crowned in any PIAA sport this spring.
“Part of winning the state championship was feeling that excitement of knowing I was coming back this year and getting to play again,” Brady Burns said. “There was that added confidence, and I was definitely looking forward to it.”
As were PV seniors Josh Gingrich and Seth Karg and juniors Josh Jarvis and Nehemiah Glick, who were all ready for expanded roles this spring, after stalwarts Devon Clemmer, Hunter Winey and Josh Heinrich graduated after winning the state team title last spring.
“We graduated a lot of key guys last year, but for the guys coming back and coming up, this was going to be their first real varsity experience, and they had been working really hard for this,” Eric Burns said. “The expectations of winning another state championship might not have been realistic. But I was anxious to see what they’d do. So this has been hugely disappointing.”
Brady Burns was hugely poised for big things on the hard-courts this spring. He won the L-L League Class 2A singles title in his freshman year in 2018, knocking off Lancaster Catholic’s Brendan McNamara 6-2, 6-2 in the finale. That same season, he teamed with Clemmer to win the L-L League 2A doubles title, before Burns was tripped up by Lancaster Country Day’s Jonah Rebert 6-4, 6-3 in the district singles semifinals.
Last spring, Burns was tabbed co-Section Three Player of the Year, helping PV win the section crown and reach the league, district and state team finals, culminating with the Braves mining PIAA gold — the first L-L League team, boys or girls, to do that.
Burns fell to McNamara in the league semifinals and was denied a league singles repeat. But he had the last laugh after helping the Braves capture the state team title.
Burns was excited to get another shot at Rebert, a senior at Lancaster Country Day, and McNamara, a junior at Lancaster Catholic, this spring. That trio was destined to have head-to-head showdowns in the league and district singles tournaments.
“I have so much respect for those guys,” Brady Burns said. “Those guys work so hard, but that’s also what motivates me. I worked really hard for this season, and I wanted to be at the top of that really strong group. I definitely wanted to make things different this year. I was really amped for this season, so not getting to play will make me miss it even more.”
While motivating him for the future. Burns is hoping to play in United State Tennis Association events once the stay-at-home quarantine is lifted. And you can bet he’ll be ready to go next March, when his senior season at PV rolls around — knowing McNamara will also be due back at Lancaster Catholic.
Burns is also on the college recruiting trail. He was able to get away for a visit to Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland earlier this spring, but he had to postpone several other recruiting trips because of coronavirus concerns.
His goal, he said, is to play tennis in college — while still coming to grips with the 2020 season that never really was, and gearing up for what he hopes is a successful senior campaign in 2021.