Fox Chapel, Sewickley Academy defend WPIAL boys tennis titles
It took five long, competitive matches but at the conclusion of the WPIAL Class AAA boys team tennis finals, it was Fox Chapel that successfully defended its title by upending top-seeded Peters Township, 4-1, at North Allegheny High School.
The victory marks the second WPIAL crown in as many seasons for the Foxes, who received wins from two singles players and both of its doubles groupings. Not a single match in Class AAA lasted less then an hour.
“It was a great amount of fun. These are good kids, they're young and they really tried hard from square one this season,” FC coach Dave Prevost said. “We had our ups and downs, but every team does. When it mattered most today, they came to play.”
The pivotal match was expected to be a clash between each program's top singles player. Fox Chapel's Robby Shymansky and Peters Township's Connor Bruce went at it with total effort for the full duration of their match, rallying back and forth until Shymansky earned a 6-4, 6-2 win.
“We came into this year still hungry. We really wanted to get it again, and we want to keep winning it every year. It's the biggest goal of the season for us,” Shymansky said.
“(Bruce) is a great player. I didn't play great all the time today, but it feels good to come out with the win.”
Along with Shymansky, Foxes senior Neil Benchereif won his singles match, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2, against Miguel Ascencio. The back-to-back WPIAL champs swept doubles competition, with Jared Nord and Kurran Singh winning 7-5, 6-3, and the pairing of Jay Kashyap and Karsten Langerquist taking a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
Peters Township received its match win from Ryan Farrell, who topped Milo Baron, 6-1, 5-7, 7-5.
While they did fall short in the WPIAL finals, Peters Township coach Brandt Bowman said the Indians still have some competing to do in the upcoming PIAA team tournament.
“We knew playing Fox Chapel, it was going to be super close. It was close. Whether the final says 5-0 or 3-2, it doesn't reflect how close it really was today,” Bowman said. “It's been a great season, and we still have states. It's not over yet.”
Sewickley wins 14th straight title
The streak is still alive at Sewickley Academy, as the Panthers closed out their WPIAL Class AA team season with an authoritative 5-0 victory against Indiana to clinch their 14th consecutive championship.
The clean sweep didn't come without effort, but the Panthers managed to dispatch the Little Indians in a rematch of last year's final thanks to the hard work put in by the team's seniors — Luke Ross, Sam Sauter, Ryan Gex and Neil Rana.
“Every year is different. You always have different personalities, different dynamics. This year, it happens to be that there's four seniors in our starting lineup so you're happy for them because of how much time they put into this,” Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder said.
“But it's mostly a pride thing, representing Sewickley Academy and this tradition of tennis at a school that all these kids love.”
Ross won his No. 1 singles matchup 6-1, 6-0 while Sauter topped Indiana's Joey Bujdos, 6-0, 6-1, at second singles. Ryan Gex took home the third singles match for Sewickley with a 6-2, 6-1 win against Giaco Gentile.
“For all of us, especially us seniors, it's definitely very rewarding to cap off our careers with the WPIAL championship,” Gex said. “Each year it gets tougher and tougher, and I think this was one of our hardest years to win it.”
In doubles play, Arjan Bedi and Will Nocito paired up to earn a 6-1, 6-0 win, and Neil Rana paired with Dylan Parda to take the other match by the same score.
Although it was Indiana's second season finishing as runner-up in Class AA, coach Phil Palko was proud of his players and the determination they displayed throughout the season.
“Basically for triple-A tennis, when you get to this level, it's all about who finishes second to Sewickley. Yesterday, my team had to work their tails off to get here to the finals, and we were really excited about that,” Palko said.
“Who we played today doesn't matter. My guys came to play. We know that they're good, but it doesn't matter, we still came to play.”
Both Sewickley Academy and Indiana advanced to the PIAA tournament, along with Quaker Valley, which defeated South Park, 5-0, in the WPIAL consolation match.
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.