Sewickley Academy tennis out to defend WPIAL, PIAA titles with new-look team

| Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

His top singles players from a year ago have switched academies. Three of the other five starters also graduated. Yet Whitney Snyder is thrilled to be coaching Sewickley Academy girls tennis.

“Things are going well,” he said. “We had 24 girls out for the team; nine are on varsity and 15 on JV. For a school our size, that's a lot of girls. That's flattering.”

It also is a testament to the quality of this program, that young players are attracted to it. And why not?

The Panthers were WPIAL and PIAA Class AA champions last season, and dominant ones at that. They didn't lose a singles or doubles match in either tournament, going 39-0. Their top two singles players accepted Division I tennis scholarships, and the Logan Antill-Caroline Ross doubles team won district and state gold.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime tennis team,” Snyder said. “Our depth was really something special.”

That's why despite the toll commencement day 2012 took on this squad, it still may contend for Section 6 and other titles. Two starters have returned and talented players who didn't get much varsity time in 2011 will have more opportunities.

Gone are singles stalwarts Eva Sung and Antill, Nos. 1 and 2 respectively. Sung is at West Point, Antill at the Naval Academy. Gone also are Ross, a doubles specialist now playing lacrosse at Tufts, and the doubles tandem of Maria Frischling and Annie Magovern.

That was a senior-oriented squad whose players had established roles. This year, there are no 12th-graders on hand, and beyond first and second singles, Snyder is uncertain of his starters.

“By no means will our lineup be set anytime soon,” he said. “There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle to put together, whereas last year we knew who would play where.”

Snyder knows that junior captains Sydney Miggantz and Samantha Gohh are first and second singles, and that juniors Amy Cheng and Jappmann Longa are vying for the third spot.

“Those two are very interchangeable, as are Miggantz and Gohh,” Snyder said.

Doubles, he said, is unsettled, with the other five players also “in the mix.” They are junior Sydney Joseph, sophomores Courtney Cook and Riley Roberts, and freshmen Lauren Ritz and Cara Dietrich.

“I think we'll know more when we play more good teams,” Snyder said. “Quaker Valley is very strong. Beaver always has a good team.

“We're very young. There's a lot of teaching to be done. I feel like I'm in a classroom more often, but that's fine. I'm very excited about this team. It's young and very coachable.

“Success does breed success. These girls want to be successful in their own right. They work hard. They just don't have the experience last year's team had.”

Rick Shrum is a freelance writer.

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