Latrobe tennis exceeds expectations

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

When Latrobe boys tennis coach Michelle Uveges put out the word that her team was lacking in depth, the response was more than expected and before she knew it there were eight players eager to sign up.

That was just the first in a season of exceeded expectations.

The Wildcats were a melting pot of athletes that came together for a run to the WPIAL playoffs. They finished their season Thursday with a loss to North Hills in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA team playoffs.

“I expected them to do pretty well,” said Uveges, who completed her first season as the boys coach. “They definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Leading the charge was junior Chad Kissell, a three-sport athlete who also golfs and plays basketball. He rolled to a 14-0 record in the regular season as the Wildcats' No. 1 singles player before making to the WPIAL title match, where he fell to Central Catholic's Adam Blasinsky.

Kissell has made tennis his main priority and in doing so his backhand, serve and mental attitude has all improved, Uveges said.

“He excels at everything he does,” she said.

There was also the doubles tandem of Cam Carr and Tim Ruppen, both hockey players trying tennis for the first time. Both players, Ruppen especially, brought their skills from the ice with them.

“You can tell he's a goalie,” Uveges said. “He is a beast at the net.”

Following Kissell in singles were Mike Sisak and Mario Fannie. The No. 1 doubles team featured Mike Reyes and Kyle Mattioli. The second doubles was a revolving cast of Carr, Ruppen, Tyler Stercho, Matt Proch and Seth Barbow. It all added up to a stellar season in which the Wildcats finished 12-3 and were seeded eighth at the WPIAL tournament. Not bad for a team on the lookout for players about a month ago.

“Every single one of them has improved so much from the beginning of the year. Their competitive drive is incredible,” Uveges said. “It wasn't like they were just coming to get a t-shirt.”

Six players will graduate this year, but Uveges is expecting a different turnout next year. She said the combination of winning and having fun should lure more players. Plus, the players she has are already talking about introducing camps and clinics in the area to stay active in the offseason.

“Next year is going to be a bit of a rebuilding year,” Uveges said. “The players I have coming back want to work, they want to be there and they want to do well. I still think we're going to be very competitive in (Section 1-AAA).”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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