Another Kissell leading Latrobe tennis team to success
There is a familiar name leading the way for the Latrobe High School boys tennis team this season.
After his sisters — Michaela Kissell-Eddins, Joelle Kissell and Stacia Kissell — all enjoyed great careers for the Wildcats girls teams before moving on to play for Division I college programs, sophomore Chad Kissell has continued the family success, helping to make Latrobe a candidate to claim the Section 1-AAA crown.
Kissell rolled through the section singles tournament last week, eventually defeating Penn-Trafford's Cullen Price, 6-2, 6-0, to win his second straight title as only a sophomore.
“He had nothing to lose,” Kissell said of Price. “He could've came out fast and got a quick start on me, but I came out swinging pretty hard and everything was going in so I would say it was my day. ... Right from the start, my game was basically on.”
Now in his second season of high school tennis, Kissell has been a big factor in the Wildcats' 7-1 record and admitted that his last name still resonates over opponents, knowing that his sisters, Michaela and Joelle, were once WPIAL champions.
“My first year, last year, every place I went they heard my last name was Kissell and they say ‘Oh no, I hope you're not related to the girls,' ” he said.
But it takes more than one player for a team to be successful, and for the Wildcats, a team where Kissel is its only returning starter from last season, team depth and strong play from underclassmen has been a big reason for its success.
“That's the thing, Chad's our stellar athlete at No. 1. I drop off from Chad but once I drop down to my No. 2, everybody from two down to eight is consistent,” Latrobe head coach Jon Mains said.
Mains credits a recently implemented junior varsity program for his team's added depth, where players such as Mike Sisak, Kyle Mattioli, Mario Fannie, Mike Brooks, Miko Reyes and Tyler Stercho have all stepped up for the Wildcats this season.
While Mains said he believes Kissell is playing the best tennis he's seen him play since he's been coaching him, he also credits the sophomore with raising the play of his teammates.
“Our teammates look up to him, there's no doubt,” Mains said. “They see the type of player he is, the way he carries himself and the other members on the team want to be just like him. Chad's a great kid, if he sees somebody doing something wrong with their swing or with whatever, he will take the time to work with them. It's great having him on the team.”
Kissell added: “I'm always helping out the guys, trying to make them better because we really have an athletic group of guys.”
Kissell, along with a deep and improving group of players around him, now have their sights set on the section championship. While Mains sets the same goals every year, even he has had to raise those expectations this season as his team continues to improve.
“I have the goal every year to want to make the playoffs and have fun, those are my two goals I have with the guys,” Mains said. “Now that we're sitting at (7-1) halfway through the season, we kind of upped that goal and it wasn't just me, it was the whole team that said ‘Let's go for that section championship now that we're this close.' ”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.