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Upper St. Clair, Sewickley Academy tandems win WPIAL doubles titles

| Friday, May 12, 2017, 4:06 p.m.

The WPIAL crowned doubles tennis champions in Class AAA and AA at Club Sport and Health in Monroeville on Friday afternoon.

In the Class AAA championship, Upper St. Clair's duo of Liam Gibbons and Kevin Kwok edged Hampton's Ted Donegan and Ben Ringeisen, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.

In the first set, Hampton held a 5-3 lead but USC broke serve to make it 5-4. The rest of the set consisted of rotating service breaks that resulted in a 6-6 tie. Gibbons and Kwok pulled away early in the tiebreaker to record the 7-2 win.

The second set was more of the same as the teams were tied at 3 when USC broke serve and held on for the win. Kwok served the game that clinched the title.

“I was very confident with us up 5-4 and Kevin serving,” Gibbons said. “We rarely lose a game when he is serving.”

Before the match, USC coach Ron Mercer was wary of Hampton's Ringeisen, a talented freshman.

“He's got a real big serve and a strong forehand,” Mercer said.

Those traits were evident in the first set as Gibbons and Kwok had early problems with the serves. Ringeisen also painted the lines with his powerful forehand to win points early.

“We knew that Ben was a good player,” Kwok said. “But Ted was also very impressive. He had some great volleys. We had to adapt during the match, especially with Ben's serve. But we stayed calm and played our game.”

“We practiced a lot during the last few weeks,” Gibbons said. “It paid off.”

Both Class AAA finalists earned spots in the PIAA tournament, May 26-27 in Hershey.

The Class AA final was never in doubt as Sewickley Academy's Neil Rana and Ryan Gex cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 win over California's John Monroe and Josh Wohar. Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder was confident his duo would perform well.

“They're both very good players. Our team is very solid from No. 1 singles to No. 2 doubles, and we're very experienced when it comes to the playoffs,” Snyder said.

After Sewickley Academy had already won the WPIAL team championship and the singles title (Luke Ross) earlier this month, Rana and Gex felt no pressure to make it a clean sweep.

“We weren't thinking about a sweep,” Rana said. “Our focus was entirely on the match at hand.”

Gex, who has now won four WPIAL doubles titles, agreed.

“It was more of an emotional thing. We're both seniors and we both said how great it would be to go out with a WPIAL doubles championship. We went in with a single purpose in mind, and we were confident.”

Sewickley Academy's Arjait Bedi and Nishant Purewall defeated Indiana's Zach Palko and Joey Bujdos in the Class AA consolation match and will join the finalists at the PIAA tournament.

Marty Stewart is a freelance writer.

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