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Tennis picking up in popularity in A-K Valley

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 12:16 a.m.
Valley tennis coach Rachael Link watches her team practice at the high school in New Kensington on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Jason Bridge  |  Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Valley tennis coach Rachael Link watches her team practice at the high school in New Kensington on Saturday, March 9, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

The A-K Valley might not seem like a hotbed for boys tennis, but it is quietly earning a reputation.

“Section 4-AA, from a WPIAL standpoint, has established itself as a strong section,” Valley coach Rachel Link said. “Last year, the team to beat was St. Joseph. They had a phenomenal showing, not only in our section, but in the WPIAL.”

Last season, St. Joseph captured the section title outright, with a 13-1 record. The Spartans reached the WPIAL team semifinals, finishing fourth in the tournament.

This season, coach Joe Kujawski realizes his situation, but can see a high ceiling for some of his players.

“ I've got some talent,” Kujawski said. “ The kids have been practicing. We're just going to see how they handle themselves in practices.”

Matt Rubright is the only returning senior for the Spartans. The majority of the lineup will be filled with underclassmen.

“Matt was voted captain by the team this year. He's getting them ready,” Kujawski said. “ When you get into a match, and it gets tight, late, it's nice to have seniors.”

Valley hopes to be in that position. Link thinks she might have that type of group.

“I think the coolest part of this group is that they're gentleman, they're scholar athletes, and they want to earn it,” Link said.

Heading up the group is junior Cody Schrecengost.

“He's been working real hard in the offseason,” Link said. “He's a fierce competitor. You see that on the soccer field, and with his individual success in swimming.”

Schrecengost, who will compete at the PIAA swimming championships this week at Bucknell, captured the section singles title, as well as pairing with Adam Barone to win the doubles title.

Rounding out the nucleus of the team is senior captain Colin Shaffer.

Adding to the depth of Valley's roster is senior Josh Frazee, sophomore Andrew Macura, junior Quentin Gatto and sophomore Adam Johnson.

“(Johnson) has wicked athleticism.” Link said. “He loves the sport. He works as hard as he can to improve.”

In Class AAA, Fox Chapel is one of those programs that doesn't rebuild, it reloads. The Foxes once against have a number of key players back.

This year, the Section 3 runners-up return two starters, who have made an impact at both the singles and doubles level.

Senior Ben Short and junior Dylan McCullough reached the section semifinals last spring. The duo paired up for another semifinal run in doubles before falling in the WPIAL bracket.

Kiski Area, the runner-up in Section 1, returns a quartet of players.

Senior Charles Law took third-place in the section singles tournament. He teamed up with fellow senior Thad Paunovich for a run to the section doubles semifinals.

The team of senior Zach Ferraccio and junior Tyler Paunovich also reached the semifinals last season.

Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.

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