Challenges aplenty for Pine-Richland boys tennis team

Sunday, April 10, 2022 | 8:01 AM

A brief summary of the Pine-Richland boys tennis team’s season so far is that it has been a challenge.

Rams coach Dang Siriprasert has had to navigate poor weather that’s led to four match postponements and some canceled practices. There’s also a school band field trip coming that will take four varsity players away for a week.

Through it all, Siriprasert has kept her spirits up and the team has battled on.

“Everything we do is outdoors. We’ve never gone indoors for a match,” Siripraset said. “The weather has been difficult. It’s snowed. It’s rained. We have had a tough time with it.”

Pine-Richland was 2-2 in its first four matches.

There have been some bright spots through the cloudy skies the Rams have played under most days, such as Braiden Smalley, a senior, becoming the team’s No. 1 singles player.

When Smalley was a freshman, he came to the courts starting from scratch and has built his game up enough to be considered a top player on the team.

“When Braiden came to the team in ninth grade, he had no tennis experience at all,” Siriprasert said. “He didn’t know anything about tennis, but he’s become very good over his four years. He just walked onto the team and he made it.”

Smalley and Matteo Rovera competed in the section singles tournament April 6 at North Allegheny. Smalley won his first-round match over Michael DeVyer of Seneca Valley before falling in the quarterfinals.

Rovera is the No. 3 singles player as a sophomore. He went from not being a part of varsity matches as a freshman to earning a singles spot a year later.

“It’s not surprising at all, because he works so hard,” Siriprasert said. “Last year, Matteo ranked No. 9 on the team, but now he’s up to three.”

Siriprasert said the majority of the players on the team consider tennis their second sport, but they work hard when they come to the court for practices and matches.

The Rams will have to tap into their depth the third week of April due to the school band trip to Chicago. They’ll have to play a couple important matches without four key varsity players.

Last year, the Rams qualified for the playoffs for and won a first-round match against Penn-Trafford before losing to Upper St. Clair in the quarterfinals.

They’ll need a top-four finish in Section 2-3A to qualify again.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” Siriprasert said. “We’re going to try to make it, but right now we’re trying to survive each day.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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