Busy Burrell tennis duo ready for WPIAL tournament
No athletic talent of Tom Spagnolo's has earned the Burrell senior more attention than his ability to put a ball in the back of a net with his feet.
And fellow senior Nick Pattock has earned most of his athletic accolades at Burrell by slamming opponent's bodies into the mat.
Neither of their signature skills seems particularly germane to tennis, yet Spagnolo and Pattock, arguably Burrell's most versatile multisport senior athletes, are quite the pair when they team up for a game of doubles.
The two Buccaneers, who combined will letter in six different sports this school year, are bound for the WPIAL Class AAA doubles tournament, which begins 1 p.m. Monday at Shady Side Academy. They've played singles tennis for the bulk of this season but came together to complement each other's strengths on the court during last week's Section 4-AA doubles tournament. Spagnolo and Pattock placed second in the section behind Valley's Cody Schrecongost and Josh Denham.
Spagnolo, a three-year member of the tennis team, is best known as the soccer team's star goal scorer and a starting guard in basketball.
Pattock, a four-year member of the tennis team, made the WPIAL finals as a 170-pounder in wrestling; started at wide receiver in football; and sprints for the track and field team.
“It is pretty cool to think that we bring such a wide range of sports into the equation,” Pattock said. “I figured I'd give tennis a shot my freshman year, and I really enjoyed it. It's a nice change of pace after the other two more physical sports. And I think the common thing between all three sports is quick feet and lateral movement. It's a fun mix.”
Pattock has more of a tennis pedigree between the two Bucs, Burrell coach Anthony Facemyre said. The athlete with the knack for physically punishing sports actually takes a high-minded approach to tennis.
“Tom is a little more of someone who reacts to the situation,” Facemyre said, “and Nick is a little more cerebral and plans what he's doing a little more.”
Responsible for 21 goals this past season in soccer, the senior knows how to wow spectators.
“Tom is Speedy Gonzalez on the tennis court, basically,” Facemyre said. “His serve is not traditional, but it's his ability to get around the court and get the ball back — people love to watch him play just because he is unorthodox.”
Said Spagnolo: “I just hustle and try to get to every ball I can. I just run. ... It's all about conditioning and stamina in all three of my sports.”
Spagnolo made the WPIAL doubles tournament last season with Luke Lynam as his partner. The duo lost 10-4 in the first round to Thomas Jefferson's Sumanya and Ritwik Gupta, the same pair that awaits Spagnolo and Pattock this season.
Burrell's pair enters this tournament with no delusions about how their raw, athleticism-reliant style stacks up against opponents who prioritize tennis over other sports.
“We were kind of just winging it (at the section tournament) for a little but, because we only had a chance to play once together before we matched up,” Pattock said. “We're going to go out (Monday) and hold nothing back, because we have nothing to lose. We're the underdogs with no expectations.”