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Fox Chapel looks to fill big void at doubles

| Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 11:24 p.m.
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Juniors Lacey Cohen (left) and Laurel Shymansky will not have the chance to defend their WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA doubles championships this season because Cohen is not playing for Fox Chapel.

Last season, Fox Chapel had the most accomplished local girls tennis players in Laurel Shymansky and Lacey Cohen. The duo won it all, earning a postseason sweep: a Section 3-AAA title to go with WPIAL and PIAA doubles championships.

This season, however, only half of that team is returning.

“Lacey is taking a year off,” Fox Chapel coach Alex Slezak said. “She is going to work on her own game in preparation for college.”

Cohen's absence will leave a major gap of experience and talent in the lineup but the team hopes to take advantage of a lot of young, upcoming talent to help fill the void.

“I was surprised. I understand she wants to concentrate on other tournaments,” said Shymansky, who also took third in the section singles tournament. “We're really good friends.”

As Shymansky moves from doubles into the top singles position, freshman Amanda Nord will slide into the No. 2 singles spot.

“We've played tennis together for a long time,” Shymansky said of Nord. “(I'm helping her with) getting her used to playing high school tennis, the rules and how singles and doubles work.”

Playing singles is nothing new to Nord, who was a highly ranked player over the past few years.

“(Nord) is definitely a player,” Slezak said. “We just want to take four years and grow her game.”

Rounding out the singles is sophomore Christina Bermudez.

“She is a hungry, hungry tennis player,” Slezak said. “She's worked hard on her game in the last year.”

Bermudez, Shymansky and Cohen are the only starters who were not seniors a year ago. That leaves all four doubles spots are up for grabs.

Slezak sees a big contribution from Molly Weise.

“We definitely want to establish a team early in the year,” Slezak said. “We want to have a cohesive team when (the playoffs) come.”

Fox Chapel hopes to improve upon its second-place finish to rival Shady Side Academy in Section 3-AAA.

Section 3-AA may be one of the most interesting in the WPIAL since many different teams, because of realignment, have a shot at a postseason berth.

Springdale, Highlands, Riverview and St. Joseph remain in the section. Last year, Ellis School won the section, Vincentian finished second and Springdale and Highlands tied for the third spot.

Moving in are a number of local teams from Section 4-AA: Burrell, Ford City, Indiana, Kittanning, Valley and West Shamokin.

Indiana won the section last year, with Valley taking second and Burrell third.

“It gets you a better scope. The sections were just too small,” Valley coach Rachel Link said. “You get a better idea of where your team is in the whole WPIAL.”

Link hopes the closer proximity of schools will create rivalries and add to the competitive atmosphere of section play.

While Link admits Indiana set the standard for the section, she thinks Valley can find itself in the mix of the section title.

Returning six seniors, each of whom saw considerable playing time last year, is a nice start.

Each of Valley's singles starters, twins Emily and Catherine Armstrong, and Hannah Albright, are back.

“All three have gained a lot of wisdom on the court,” Link said.

Anna Alsera and Amanda Carson will make up the No. 1 doubles team, and Emily Meanor and sophomore Gianna Regoli make up No. 2.

For the rest of the section, several other teams have a chance to lay claim to a postseason spot, including Burrell, Highlands and Springdale.

Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.

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