Dimidjian, Thomas Jefferson tennis team find success after missed season

Sunday, May 2, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Despite having only one senior, the Thomas Jefferson boys tennis squad posted a 6-1 record in Section 1-AA this spring.

The Jaguars defeated the likes of Greensburg Central Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Mt. Pleasant, Ringgold, Southmoreland and West Mifflin while losing section champion South Park.

“I thought we had potential,” TJ coach Chuck Correll said, “but any experience was delayed or prevented by covid cancelling last season. We are mostly a junior team and our inexperience caused us to lose to a senior team from South Park. They are really strong and deep in all positions.

“We’ve had a good season and were competitive but we had contact covid issues and one of our players suffered a broken ankle. We had to make several changes.”

TJ was led at first singles by junior standout Drew Dimidjian, a bronze medalist in this year’s WPIAL Class AA singles tournament who logged a 9-1 individual record.

“Drew was awesome and won most of his matches,” Correll said. “He had a forfeit loss to Peters Township due to a sore arm.”

Dimidjian will represent the Jaguars at the PIAA singles tournament May 28-29, at the Hershey Racquet Club, where he hopes to utilize some of his long-developed tennis talents.

“Drew has a western grip that provides tremendous topspin,” Correll said. “He also has a very fast first serve.”

Dimidjian captured the section championship this year, defeating South Park’s Ethan Bowden, 6-3, 6-4, and Joe Toth, 6-1, 7-6, in the final two rounds. He qualified for states by knocking off Quaker Valley’s Will Sirianni, 6-1, 6-3, in the WPIAL consolations.

“My game has definitely improved and I am defeating the players I should,” he said. “After coming in second in the sections my freshman year, my expectation this year was to win the section. I also wanted to play well in the WPIAL, and I did by finishing third and qualifying for states.

“Our team overall is playing pretty well. We have a young team of mostly juniors and one senior. I am still hoping we can do well in the WPIAL tournament (in early May). Missing the season last year really hurt the team.”

Dimidjian has a 4.0 GPA and is involved in the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society and Big Jag Little Cub mentoring program.

“I started playing tennis in fourth grade,” he said. “I tried other sports but tennis was always my favorite. I work at a tennis club and give lessons to kids in the summer and really enjoy that.

“I am really glad we’ve had the opportunity to play and compete this year, because now know we cannot take the simple things in life for granted, like high school sports. And I want to thank my coach for always being there for us and pushing us to play with integrity and playing to our potential.”

Tony Sparta and Chris Pham, both juniors, have held the second and third singles positions for the Jaguars this spring.

“Tony has gotten stronger as the season progressed,” Correll said. “He is a lefty and has a strong backhand.

“Chris got more consistent as the year went on. His ground strokes have a lot of topspin and continued to improve.”

TJ’s veteran coach said he rotated various players at first and second doubles.

“The first and and second doubles were constantly changing,” Correll said. “Both teams had to adjust to new partners. Teamwork is so important at doubles. It is hard to anticipate what your partner will do in various situations.”

At first doubles were juniors Luke Georgulis and Joe Woderek and senior Roman Ricuitti.

“Luke was the best doubles player and dominated at the net,” Correll said. “Joe was getting better every match but injured his ankle and was lost for the season.

“Roman is the only senior on the team. He is clearly the most popular player. His attitude is to play wherever he is needed. He has a great backhand and is good at the net.”

Ricuitti also has teamed up with sophomores Gavin Sweeney and Kyle Siler at second doubles.

“Gavin and Kyle were the biggest surprises of the year,” Correll said. “They are both very good athletes and made contributions at second doubles. Gavin has a good serve. Kyle has good ground strokes and is a hustler. Both had great attitudes.”

While the 2021 season proved to be a success, Correll is looking for even bigger things in 2022. The Jaguars will have seven returning starters next season.

“TJ should be one of the better teams in WPIAL AA next season,” Correll said.


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