Peters Twp. freshman, Sewickley Academy senior win WPIAL singles titles
Although it is only just his freshman season, that little detail didn't stop Peters Township's Connor Bruce from dreaming big from the very start.
The Indians' first-year varsity tennis player made that dream a reality at The Club Sport and Health in Monroeville on Friday by defeating Fox Chapel's Robby Shymansky, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), in a back-and-forth match to win the WPIAL Class AAA boys singles tennis title.
“I came in like, ‘I want to win the WPIAL this year.' People might have known who I was coming into high school, but I didn't play high school last year so I knew it'd be a new type of pressure for me,” Bruce said.
“I just came into the season hungry and wanting to stay humble. I just wanted to go out there and do my thing, and show people who I am.”
It took three sets and a tiebreaker for Bruce to edge Shymansky, who beat the freshman in straight sets last week in the WPIAL Class AAA team finals. The sophomore from Fox Chapel had Bruce on the ropes once again in the singles final, leading 6-3 in the tiebreaker.
Yet, the Peters Township ace found a way to dig in and take five consecutive points to win the tiebreaker 8-6 and the match.
“I just had to stay focused. Whatever happened was going to happen. I thought if I can tie it up 6-6 then so be it, and I would work from there,” Bruce said. “You really can't give him any easy balls because if you do he will just put it right away on you.”
Shymansky and Bruce each advance to the PIAA tournament May 26-27 in Hershey.
In the WPIAL Class AA final, Sewickley Academy's Luke Ross became the first player in nearly 15 years to win back-to-back singles titles.
Ross knocked off a familiar foe, Carlynton's Luke Phillips, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, to secure the first successful defense of a WPIAL boys singles tennis title since Quaker Valley's John Houghton accomplished the feat from 2001-03.
Ross did it just a few days after losing to Phillips in the Section 4-AA title match.
“Any time I play against Luke in a match like that and win, it's an accomplishment,” Ross said. “He's a great player. Every match we had this year was as tight as it could be, and every match could go either way. I'm also happy to represent my school and my coach and team in winning back-to-back finals.”
The Georgetown commit and now three-time WPIAL singles champ earned a hard fought win in the first set before quickly dropping the second set 6-1. From there, Ross had to rally and make a few adjustments on the fly in order to knock off his section rival.
“These courts are super fast and he's a powerful player, so it took some time to get used to that. In the second set, he was just banging it and playing great,” Ross said.
“I think my serve really struggled in that second set, especially. The third set, I really came out and focused on my serves and returning his serves, and I think that helped.”
Ross and Phillips, a Cleveland State commit, advanced to the PIAA tournament.
Sewickley Academy's Sam Sauter defeated California's John Monroe in the Class AA consolation match 6-4, 6-4 to lock up his spot in the PIAA tournament, as well.
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.