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Tennis

After 13th straight WPIAL title, Sewickley Academy boys turn focus to PIAA tournament

| Monday, May 16, 2016, 1:39 p.m.
Members of Sewickley Academy's WPIAL championship team include, in front, from left, Neil Rana and Ryan Gex; in back, Sam Sauter, Luke Ross, Will Nocito, Don Gex, Brian Rosario, Dylan Parda and Nichant Purewal.
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Members of Sewickley Academy's WPIAL championship team include, in front, from left, Neil Rana and Ryan Gex; in back, Sam Sauter, Luke Ross, Will Nocito, Don Gex, Brian Rosario, Dylan Parda and Nichant Purewal.

The Sewickley Academy boys tennis team was optimistic about winning its first state title since 2006 at the PIAA Class AA team championship tournament this week.

The Panthers qualified by capturing their 13th consecutive WPIAL crown May 11.

Panthers' coach Whitney Snyder said his team has the depth to contend.

“We're exceptionally strong at singles,” he said.

The Panthers played a first-round match Tuesday in Monroeville against District 9 champion Brockway.

The winner will advance to the quarterfinals Friday in Hershey, where the semifinals and final also will be held.

Quaker Valley placed third at the WPIAL championship and advanced as well.

Sewickley Academy has been bolstered by the return of junior Luke Ross, a nationally ranked junior player who missed last season to train in Florida.

Ross won his second WPIAL singles title this year.

Ross and juniors Sam Sauter and Ryan Gex were undefeated in singles during the WPIAL team tournament.

Seniors Don Gex and Brian Rosario and sophomore Dylan Parda and junior Neil Rana had unblemished records playing doubles.

Rosario, the captain, expects experience to help the Panthers at the state tournament. They reached the semifinals the past five seasons and were a finalist in 2014.

“Everyone has been on the varsity (before), so we all understand the atmosphere in Hershey and (what's) at stake,” said Rosario, 18, of Moon.

Ryan Gex, 17, of Sewickley Heights was impressed by how easily the Panthers beat Indiana in the WPIAL final.

“I was a little surprised everyone put away their opponents pretty quickly,” he said.

Sewickley Academy (15-5 overall) suffered its only losses in nonsection matches against Class AAA teams. The Panthers were Section 4-AA champion.

Quaker Valley looked forward to competing at the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.

The Quakers met District 10 champion Fairview in a an opening-round match Tuesday in Erie.

Quaker Valley coach Darren Mariano said his squad was eager for an upset.

“If they continue to play at such a high level, their goal of obtaining a state title is achievable,” Mariano said.

The Quakers downed Hopewell by one point in the WPIAL consolation match after losing to Sewickley Academy in the semifinals.

Junior Walter Hubsch, junior Amos Luptak, sophomore Landon Grant, junior Nate Carver, senior Jonathan Reboton, senior Charlie Veeck and freshman Thomas David competed for the Quakers.

Veeck, 18, of Bell Acres was encouraged by the way the Quakers played.

“We know we're a really strong team,” he said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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