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Tennis

Ross' return boosts Sewickley Academy tennis team

| Sunday, March 13, 2016, 11:30 p.m.
Sewickley Academy junior Luke Ross returned to the school after spending a year playing in Florida.
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Sewickley Academy junior Luke Ross returned to the school after spending a year playing in Florida.

Junior Luke Ross is back, and the Sewickley Academy boys tennis team is eager to win its 13th consecutive WPIAL Class AA team title and first state championship in a decade.

The Panthers will open the season Monday by hosting Washington in a Section 4-AA match.

Ranked among the nation's top 200 junior tennis players, Ross missed last season to train in Florida. He was WPIAL singles champion and state runner-up as a freshman.

Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder said with Ross back and most players returning from last season, the team is shaping into one of the best in 25 years with the Panthers.

“This team is very, very strong,” he said.

Senior captain Brian Rosario said Ross' return is a “huge gain.”

“He is a fantastic singles player,” said Rosario, 17, of Moon.

Junior Ryan Gex agreed.

“I remember watching him my freshman year and how spectacular it was to see him compete and beat top-ranked opponents,” said Gex, 16, of Sewickley. “(I) can't wait to see him this year.”

Ross, 17, of Sewickley looks forward to rejoining the Panthers.

“I just hope that I can be a positive effect on and off the court,” he said.

Snyder said Ross, junior Sam Sauter and Gex will start the season as the Panthers' No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 singles players, respectively.

Sauter was the WPIAL singles runner-up, and Gex and his brother, senior Don Gex, captured the WPIAL doubles title last year.

Don Gex, Rosario, junior Neil Rana and sophomores Dylan Parda, Will Nocito and Nishant Purewal are vying for spots on the No. 2 doubles teams.

Rana and Wyatt Geller, who graduated, were second at the WPIAL doubles tournament last season.

Rosario said the Panthers have the ingredients to be a state champion.

“This team has the most potential of any I've played on,” he said. “Everyone has worked out their problems, whether it's hitting solid volleys or staying more consistent.

“The doubles players are all playing tough and staying competitive, which is very encouraging to see this early in the year.”

The Panthers were PIAA semifinalists last season. They won the state crown in 2006.

Quaker Valley has most of its team back and looks forward to returning to the WPIAL playoffs, where it lost to Sewickley Academy in the semifinals last year.

The Quakers were scheduled to kick off the season Monday with a nonsection match against Hopewell. Results were unavailable before this edition's deadline.

Their first Section 2-AA match is Thursday at home against Vincentian.

Quakers coach Darren Mariano said junior Walter Hubsch will compete at No. 1 singles, and juniors Nate Carver and Jonathan Reboton also will be among top players.

Carver and Reboton qualified for the WPIAL doubles championship a year ago.

Senior Charlie Veeck, sophomore Landon Grant and juniors Johann Cooper and Christian Tobias also will play, as will freshman Thomas David, sophomore Beau Tomczak, freshman Potter Oliver and sophomore Spencer Kries.

Hubsch, 16, of Edgeworth expects the Quakers to improve as the season progresses.

“We are young,” he said. “The more court time we get, the better we will be.”

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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