Fox Chapel's balance, experience will be key
Fox Chapel is looking to have another strong season in Class AAA boys tennis.
Since the Foxes graduated only one senior last year in Evan Verbofsky, who is now playing for Division III Denison, they are not lacking experience.
The team's lone senior in the top six positions is Jonathan Jordan. However, his veteran presence does not guarantee him the No. 1 singles spot.
"We have six guys on our team who could conceivably play singles," Fox Chapel coach Dave Prevost said. "The guys will be able to challenge each other in practice week in and week out, so they will probably rotate their positions."
Jordan will be challenged by juniors Jon Hahalyak and twins Sal and Rico Certo, sophomore Brad Portnoy, and freshman Shankar Rajupet.
Prevost has determined that the three singles positions, the first doubles team, and half of the second doubles team will come from this arsenal of players.
"It's going to be incumbent upon me to figure out personalities for who would make the strongest doubles team," Prevost said. "To compete with Shady Side, we're going to have to win one or even both doubles matches."
Shady Side Academy has a strong contingent of players back as well, including Apollo resident Josh Ferracio. Ferraccio made a strong showing by advancing to the consolation finals of the WPIAL Class AAA doubles tournament last year along with his partner Chris Mengel. However, the Shady Side Academy duo was not expected to compete in the tournament and, in fact, were replacements for teammates who could not compete in the section tournament. Mengel, a sophomore, and Ferraccio, a senior, will resume their normal spots as the No. 1 and No. 2 singles players for the Indians, as they look to have a strong 2008 season.
"We're looking to win the state team championship first," said Mengel, a Fox Chapel resident. "I think we improved over last year since we have some new guys coming up and others getting older. I think last year we had a legitimate chance, too."
Ferraccio has a strong chance to compete on his own as well. The senior is a two-time WPIAL qualifier and hopes he has saved his best tennis for his senior season.
Robert Livorio will return as Valley's No. 1 singles player. Livorio qualified for the WPIAL tournament not only as a singles competitor but as a doubles competitor along with his cousin, Patrick Brennan. The duo won one match before losing in the quarterfinals.
"He's smart on the tennis court. He's extremely intelligent and always thinking," said Valley coach Rachael Link of Livorio. "As soon as he entered into practice, he immediately became a leader."
Livorio started the tennis season late, as he was competing in the PIAA wwimming championships. The junior also plays soccer for Valley in the fall.
"He should be the leader in the section singles," Link said. "I think the team title for the section will come down to Burrell, Indiana, and us."
Riverview returns senior Dan Chirdon. Chirdon was the runner-up in the Section 4-AA tournament last season and qualified for the WPIAL tournament.