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Sewickley Academy captures 10th straight WPIAL tennis title

| Thursday, May 9, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

Sewickley Academy winning the WPIAL Class AA boys team tennis championship has almost become a rite of spring.

It's certainly hard to argue with the Panthers' success. Or find another team in any sport that is comparable.

Sewickley Academy added another title to its lengthening resume when it rolled to a 4-1 win over seventh-seeded Mars in the WPIAL Class AA championship match at North Allegheny. It was the Panthers' 10th consecutive title and 18th in the 21 years since the sport was split into two classifications.

The three years they didn't win, they lost in the finals.

“I think that once a winning tradition is established in any school in any sport, the younger kids see that and they aspire to be on that team,” Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder said. “I think that if you look at any of the great schools that have had that tradition, that's what it's about. It's about the passion of the players and it's just passed on.”

Snyder has made sure that, as a 1979 Sewickley Academy alumnus, he has helped convey that winning tradition to his players.

“It means a tremendous amount to me personally having grown up and gone to the school from nursery school through 12th grade, and it's just the pride of giving something back to the school that the kids can feel good about,” Snyder said. “It makes them feel that they're part of something. I think everybody should have a feeling of pride to give back to their alma mater.”

The Panthers have won 45 of their last 50 WPIAL championship matches, including 4-1 scores each of the last three years.

Mars' No. 1 singles player, freshman Josh Raymundo, broke up the Panthers' shutout bid, which could be a signal that the streak might end in 2014. The Planets are loaded with underclassmen, while Sewickley Academy graduates four of its top seven players.

“You don't just write it down,” Snyder said. “A lot of stuff has to go into this. It's a tremendous amount of work to be ready to play, but I think next year will be a different story because of Mars' youth.”

Shady Side Academy appeared it would have an easy time repeating as Class AAA champion. The Indians' No. 2 and No. 3 singles players, Eric Grubbs and Cooper Kann, each posted straight sets victories to give them a quick 2-0 lead against North Allegheny, but that's when it turned dicey.

North Allegheny's top singles player, Kevin Goth, rolled to a 6-0 first-set win over Alok Nimgaonkar while both Tigers' doubles teams took the first sets to give them the advantage.

Shady Side Academy, though, rallied to win all three matches and finished with a 5-0 victory to clinch a third title in four years.

“It was close and any of those three matches could have gone either way,” Shady Side Academy coach Tom Mercer said. “We got through it, and it will help us at states.”

Qualifying for the state meet, which Shady Side Academy did when it made it into the finals, was a goal for the Indians since the team lost, 4-1, in the PIAA Class AAA championship match to Conestoga last year. The top two teams in Class AAA and the top three in Class AA move into a preliminary match Tuesday for the right to participate in the PIAA team finals May 17-18 at Hershey Racquet Club.

“Losing last year, that motivated us a lot,” Nimgaonkar said. “It's really pushed us and drives us to work harder and put a lot more into our matches, and I think that's why we won.”

Vincentian defeated Quaker Valley, 3-2, in the consolation match to advance to the PIAA Class AA tournament.

Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kbarnes@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.

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