Sewickley Academy pair captures WPIAL title
Sewickley Academy's dominance of the WPIAL Class AA doubles tournament continued last week.
Senior Luke Vith and freshman Ryan Gex became the sixth straight Panthers duo to claim the title after defeating Winchester-Thurston's Charlie Orr and Max Pollack, 6-2, 6-3.
“It is awesome,” Vith said. “This is the third season I have been doing this and it is nice to finally get the win.”
The Panthers never trailed in the first set. They did fall behind in the second set 2-0 before winning five straight games. Vith and Gex were familiar with their opponents from Winchester-Thurston as they defeated the pair 7-5, 6-1 in the Section 3-AA tournament final.
Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder described his top doubles team as a natural fit.
“(Vith) is a three-year starter in doubles play,” Snyder said. “His strength is in his serve and net games. (Gex) has tremendous groundstrokes. You always want to look for partnerships that complement each other.”
With being first-year partners, Vith and Gex needed time to gel. But once they got comfortable, their different styles of play and physical characteristics made for a formidable duo.
“Our communication has gotten a lot better,” Gex said. “During section matches, there would be balls that we would not know who should go after it. He is also so big he can reach anything, which really helps my shortness.”
Gex and Vith are both decorated multi-sport athletes at Sewickley Academy. The 5-foot-5 Gex played on the PIAA title winning soccer team and the hockey team that were the runners-up in the ISHL. The 6-5 Vith was a part of the basketball team that made the WPIAL playoffs.
Another Sewickley Academy duo will make the trip to Hershey for the PIAA tournament, as seniors Dan McCormick and Andrew Parda defeated Valley's Cody Schrecongost and Josh Denham, 6-1, 2-6, 6-1, in the third-place consolation match.
“I thought we came out with good energy in the first set and were able to take control,” Parda said. “We relaxed a little bit in the second set and they took advantage of that. But we got the energy back in the third.”
The pair are playing together in doubles play for the first time at Sewickley Academy but their bond goes beyond the court.
“I really think team chemistry is our strength,” McCormick said. “We have known each other since kindergarten and have both been playing tennis together for years.”
McCormick and Parda were knocked into the consolation match after falling to Gex and Vith, 6-3, 6-3, in the semifinals.
“That is tough,” Parda said. “Obviously, you want your teammates to find success but you also want to win.”
The last time a Sewickley Academy duo failed to win the WPIAL Class AA doubles title was in 2009 when Chartiers-Houston sisters Karli and Tanya Timko won the boys tournament.
The title winning streak can be credited to pride, according to Snyder. The team comes into the season with all players looking to compete for one of the singles spots. Once those are decided, the remaining players begin focusing on doubles play.
Instead of being disappointed with not being a singles player, the doubles pairings at Sewickley Academy embrace the challenge.
“You have to credit the players' desire,” Snyder said. “Instead of being disappointed with not being in the singles lineup, they come back hungry. They want to make an impact in doubles.”
The win in the doubles tournament added another accolade, as freshman Luke Ross won the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament last month.
Sewickley Academy entered the team playoffs as the top seed and received a bye in the first round. The Panthers faced Thomas Jefferson on Monday; results were unavailable at press time.
For the Panthers, capturing the team's 10th straight WPIAL team title has been a top priority.
“We definitely have a lot of confidence going in,” Vith said. “There is a lot of pressure on us to win it again, but we feel good. We push each other in practice every day. We want to be the best team in the WPIAL.”