Kiski Area's Paunovich brothers set for doubles tournament
Kiski Area's Paunovich brothers provide a new meaning to term “tennis match.”
From their builds to their playing styles, Thad and Tyler Paunovich, a senior and junior, respectively, share multiple commonalities. Both are accustomed to singles tennis, but they will pair up to compete for the WPIAL Section 1-AAA doubles tournament at Franklin Regional on Monday.
“We're pretty much the same player,” said Tyler, Kiski Area's No. 1 singles player. “(Thad) has a bigger serve than I do. But all-around, we're pretty even. … We both like to be aggressive and get to the net as much as we can.”
Each brother has a svelte, 6-foot-2 frame, so when paired, they're an imposing sight when they crowd the net.
“We're big, so we take up lots of space,” Thad said. “Overheads are our favorite things to hit.”
Until recently, the Paunovich brothers, separated in age by two years, rarely shared a side of the court.
Both became casual fans of the sport through their parents and joined the Kiski Area team as freshmen. Tyler, a serious baseball player during his formative years, needed time to develop into a contributor at the varsity level.
During the past winter, the Paunovich brothers tested their abilities as a tandem at The Club Sport and Health in Monroeville, where they played against Cavaliers coach Ralph Antenucci and senior Charles Law. The matches were short, and the pairings changed often, but the Paunoviches grew confident about their chemistry.
Their coach noticed, too.
“You put brothers together, and sometimes you get that sibling rivalry, but they work very well together,” Antenucci said. “They have similar skills and play a similar kind of game. They're both very athletic. They're both tall. And they both have big serves.”
There's little tension between the two partially because they easily acknowledge each other's athletic strengths. Tyler is better at tennis, Thad said. Thad is better at volleyball, Tyler said; they were teammates on a four-person squad that won titles at a Highland Park 18-and-under sand volleyball league the last two years. In terms of raw athletic abilities, the brothers agree they're very close.
“When we play against each other (in tennis), it's all-out war,” Thad said. “But when we play together, we feed each other and feed off that competiveness.”
The brothers' aspirations for their doubles debut are modest. They want to qualify for the WPIAL tournament, which requires a third-place finish in Section 1.
Tyler qualified for the WPIAL singles tournament two weeks ago by taking third in the section. The two players who placed higher, Latrobe sophomore Chad Kissell and Penn-Trafford junior Cullen Price, likely will belong to the doubles teams that present the brothers with their biggest challenges, Thad said.
If the brothers fall short, they likely can still boast that they're the best of Kiski Area's brother tandems. On a roster that Antenucci considers unprecedented, the Cavaliers have three pairs: the Paunoviches, senior Zach and freshman Alex Ferraccio, and senior Paul and freshman Jake Murray.
“The one thing about me and Thad, we seem a little more outgoing” than the other brothers, Tyler said. “If we hit a good shot, we kind of get fired up and communicate that with each other.
“We're pretty much instantly on the same page because we have the same competitive mentality where we both want to win.”