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St. Joseph tennis team sets lofty goals

| Saturday, May 5, 2012, 12:51 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
St. Joseph's Joe Albaugh returns a shot during practice at Hillcrest Country Club in Lower Burrell on Friday, May 4, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

St. Joseph's boys tennis coach Joe Kujawski got excited when he described the crucial turn of events April 18, when the Spartans avenged their only Section 4-AA loss of the season.

In the teams' first meeting March 26, St. Joseph's No. 1 doubles squad of David Fioravanti and Joe Staniszewski dropped a three-set nail-biter, and the Spartans lost, 3-2.

In the rematch, Fioravanti and Staniszewski captured a two-set win, flipping the result to a 3-2 victory for the St. Joseph.

“That made the season perfect,” Kujawski said. “When we came back in that rematch and won, the guys were thrilled. They knew at least they would be section co-champs.”

Thanks to that performance and Burrell's win over Indiana later in the season, St. Joseph (13-1) ended up capturing sole possession of the Section 4-AA championship.

St. Joseph is one of four local teams to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs, which start Monday. The others are Class AA Burrell and Class AAA Fox Chapel and Kiski Area.

But the Spartans are the only section champions in the foursome.

The win over Indiana still resonates with St. Joseph.

“When Joe and David lost the first time around, that was a pretty crushing loss,” said senior Luke Thimons, No. 2 singles player and team captain. “They really wanted to win that. The close second match was sitting on their shoulders. That was a huge win for us. It helped team morale.”

At the beginning of the season, Kujawski believed his experienced team had a chance to take a serious shot at the section title.

St. Joseph usually starts six seniors and one junior.

The St. Joseph lineup features senior Joe Albaugh at No. 1 singles, Thimons at No. 2 singles, and junior Matt Rubright at No. 3 singles, seniors Fioravanti and Staniszewski at No. 1 doubles, and seniors Max Praniewicz and Aaron Stein at No. 2 doubles.

Despite being the youngest starter, Rubright has produced a 14-0 record in team competition.

At 6-foot-5, Staniszewski stands out as the tallest player on the team — and probably in the section.

He and Praniewicz didn't play last year but rejoined the St. Joseph tennis team this spring.

Kujawski said he's proud his team doesn't rely on a superstar or two but is balanced throughout the lineup.

He added that having many seniors is a big boost.

“With a senior-laden team, you can do some things,” Kujawski said.

“They do things differently from freshmen, sophomores and even juniors. I told them they'd do OK. They did better than OK.”

Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pkogut@tribweb.com or 724-224-2696.

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