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Franklin Regional boys tennis targeting perfect second half

| Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Murrysville Star
Franklin Regional's Rohan Hattangady competes in the Section 1-AAA singles tournament on March 31, 2014, at Franklin Regional High School.

The Franklin Regional boys tennis team found itself on the wrong end of a pair of 3-2 decisions during the first half of section play.

With a little bit of cleanup, coach Howard Fisher thinks an undefeated second half could be in the offing.

Franklin Regional (5-2) began the second half of section play with a match against Kiski Area on Tuesday, past the deadline for this week's edition. Fisher said the Panthers discussed having a perfect second half to the season during Monday's practice.

“We have a difficult road ahead, but (the players) have assured me that they're confident that as they continue to progress, they'll be able to meet that goal,” Fisher said. “My team generally does get stronger as the season goes on and they feel more comfortable with the position they're assigned.”

The Panthers' lone losses this season came in 3-2 defeats against Latrobe and Penn-Trafford. Fisher said both matches came down to three-set competitions at first doubles.

Thus far, Franklin Regional's biggest strength lies in its singles play. Rochan Ramesh, Rohan Hattangady and Alex Sebastian have held down the top three singles spots for much of the season.

Hattangady has an undefeated record against opponents' No. 2 singles players, while Ramesh advanced to the consolation final at the Section 1-AAA singles tournament with a chance to earn a spot to the WPIAL tournament. That match, against Tyler Paunovich of Kiski, was held Tuesday, past the deadline for this week's edition.

“I feel very good about my singles lineup,” Fisher said. “Obviously, it's difficult when we play the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the section (Latrobe's Chad Kissell and Penn-Trafford's Cullen Price) and you don't have that solid win at No. 1. But I feel I have a very solid No. 2 player who's undefeated, and that obviously gives us an advantage over our opponents.”

In order to achieve its goal of a perfect record in the second half, Fisher said the Panthers would need improvement from their doubles teams. Fisher said he was trying different combinations at doubles in order to find the right matches.

“We're looking for chemistry right now between players and looking for players that can be assigned to either the deuce side or the ad side,” Fisher said. “Some players feel more comfortable on the deuce side — in fact, most of the players like playing the deuce side — and I'm trying to work it out (to see) if we can get a good combination.”Franklin Regional qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs last season, and the Panthers are in a tight race for one of the three playoff spots from the section this season. Latrobe led the section with a 7-0 record entering the week, while Franklin Regional, Hempfield and Penn-Trafford were tied at two losses apiece. At 2-3, Norwin was just one loss behind.

“There's a lot of parity in the section this year,” Fisher said. “I think it speaks to the teams that only have a couple losses. ... We feel we're equally talented, and we're hoping if we can work out our doubles lineup we'll be able to beat them and make it to the postseason playoffs.”

After the Kiski match, the Panthers were scheduled to travel to Norwin on Wednesday, past the deadline for this week's edition.

“We're not going to be concerned with what other teams do or what their successes or losses are,” Fisher said. “We just have to go out and win every match that we have from here on out.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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