Franklin Regional boys tennis team looks forward after strong year
Franklin Regional's boys tennis team did its part to restore the program's strong tradition this season, and the Panthers will now look to keep building for the future.
The Panthers (13-3), whose season ended earlier this month with a 3-2 loss to Chartiers Valley in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, won a share of the Section 1-AAA title this year — the program's first since a nine-year run as section champions ended in 2011 — and hope that they can keep the success going.
The team made a goal at midseason to go undefeated in the second half of section play and achieved that to earn the section co-championship with Latrobe.
“They delivered on their promise,” coach Howard Fisher said. “They played well, they played competitively and they played with passion. They knew what they wanted to be able to do. ... We thought if we could defeat the top two teams, we could at least have a shot at a co-championship, which is what we ultimately were able to do.”
Franklin Regional closed the regular season with a pair of victories over Latrobe and Penn-Trafford, the top two teams in the section at midseason. The 4-1 victory over Penn-Trafford in the section finale ended the Warriors' run of three straight section titles.
“It was a fantastic memory for the boys, especially the large group of seniors that we have on the team,” Fisher said. “It was an awesome victory for the team, especially the timing of it. I think it was very satisfying for the team to be able to win, especially the second match with Penn-Trafford, with everything depending on a win.”
The playoff match against Chartiers Valley came down to a deciding third set at No. 3 singles. Nick Calla defeated Alex Sebastian, 6-4, in the set to allow Chartiers Valley to get the victory.
“We knew that it would be a close match,” Fisher said. “It was actually what we were looking forward to — rather than playing in a lopsided match, whether we were the top team or there was another team higher than us, we thought this was a very good first-round match in the WPIAL playoffs.
“My boys enjoyed the match. Of course they would have liked to have seen a different result, but they knew that we were matched up with a team that was evenly matched with us. I think they enjoyed the competition.”
The Panthers will lose 10 seniors from this season's team, including several key starters. No. 1 singles player Rochan Ramesh, a sophomore, will return.
Fisher said current juniors Ali Piracha and Torsten Voigt looked to provide leadership for next year's team, and he is also hoping for the return of Connor Warwick, who started at doubles for the Panthers before being injured in the mass stabbing at Franklin Regional in April.
Several sophomores will also look to step up for next season's team, Fisher said.
“I think the experience factor is what will be missed the most (with the graduating seniors),” Fisher said. “When you're graduating 10 of your players, it's going to be difficult to fill in those spots. But with the strength of our (junior varsity) program, I think we'll have players that will be excited to step in and be able to earn a varsity spot on a team that has such a rich legacy of tennis.”