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Sewickley Academy boys celebrate state tennis crown

| Monday, May 23, 2016, 1:48 p.m.
Members of the Sewickley Academy PIAA champion boys tennis team include, in front, from left, Will Nocito, Don Gex, Brian Rosario and Dylan Parda; in back, Sam Sauter, Luke Ross, Ryan Gex, Neil Rana and Nachant Purewal.
Members of the Sewickley Academy PIAA champion boys tennis team include, in front, from left, Will Nocito, Don Gex, Brian Rosario and Dylan Parda; in back, Sam Sauter, Luke Ross, Ryan Gex, Neil Rana and Nachant Purewal.

The Sewickley Academy boys tennis team breezed to its first state title in a decade and, with mostly underclassmen, looks forward to next season.

The Panthers lost only one point in four matches in the PIAA Class AA tournament last week. They shut out Wyomissing, the District 3 champion, in the final in Hershey.

The Panthers won their 13th consecutive WPIAL crown this season. Their only previous state title was in 2006, but the Panthers had lost in the final four other times.

The Panthers reached the semifinals for the sixth straight year and avenged a 3-2 loss to Wyomissing in the 2014 championship.

Juniors Luke Ross, Sam Sauter and Ryan Gex were undefeated in first, second and third singles, respectively.

Junior Neil Rana and sophomore Dylan Parda were perfect in second doubles.

Seniors Don Gex and Brian Rosario, a captain, bounced back in first doubles after losing in the quarterfinals to Moravian Academy of District 11, the defending state champion.

Panthers coach Whitney Snyder was impressed by his squad's all-around play.

“(We were) exceptionally strong in singles, (and) the chemistry got better with the doubles teams,” he said.

The Panthers benefited from the return of Ross, a nationally ranked junior player who missed last season to train in Florida.

Ross, a two-time WPIAL singles champion, said it felt great to be back on a state championship team.

Rosario, 18, of Moon said everyone did well, but there were some surprises.

“Neil Rana and Dylan Parda played (outstandingly),” he said. “At second singles, Sam Sauter was especially strong.”

Ryan Gex, 17, of Sewickley Heights believed competing against “tough” Class AAA teams in the regular season helped. The Panthers suffered their only losses in five nonsection contests.

Snyder said although they did not compete in the state playoffs, sophomores Will Nocito and Nishant Purewal also contributed.

“They played in half our matches and were as supportive as anyone,” Snyder said.

Six Panthers will compete at the PIAA singles and doubles championships Friday and Saturday in Hershey.

Quaker Valley is eager for next season after losing to District 10 champion Fairview in the first round.

“We have a young team and are looking to build upon our successful season,” coach Darren Mariano said.

Junior Walter Hubsch, junior Amos Luptak, sophomore Landon Grant, junior Nate Carver, senior Jonathan Reboton, freshman Thomas David and senior Charlie Veeck played for the Quakers, who qualified as the third-place team in the WPIAL.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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