Fox Chapel boys finally get over the hump, capture WPIAL team gold

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Thursday, October 10, 2019 | 7:44 PM


All season long, the Fox Chapel boys golf team has had a saying that its lived by every match.

“Be comfortable being uncomfortable,” coach Bryan Deal said.

Turns out, on Thursday afternoon at Cedarbrook Golf Club in Belle Vernon, Fox Chapel didn’t need the second half of its saying. They felt comfortable all day long.

Led by senior Amani D’Ambrosio’s score of 69 and Matt Mattioli’s 75, Fox Chapel captured its first WPIAL team championship since 2006 and fifth in program history and did so in convincing fashion, winning by 12 strokes over runner-up Upper St. Clair.

“I’m so happy for the team. It’s been a great year all along, and I knew from the start that we’d be able to get it done,” D’Ambrosio said.

In past years, Fox Chapel has suffered a lot of disappointment at the WPIAL championships. Last year, they finished runner-up to Central Catholic by six strokes. In 2016, they suffered an excruciating one stroke loss — again to the Vikings — and a year before that, they came up 10 strokes short in another runner-up finish.

From the beginning of this season, Deal said this team felt different. They had a lot of depth, they were older than teams in years past, and throughout the season, they came together as a team to work towards accomplishing the ultimate goal of finally getting over the hump.

“I know how much pressure the kids felt on their backs because they weren’t carrying the flag just for them today but for other kids that didn’t get it done,” Deal said. “We all felt that. We didn’t talk about it, but it was a hidden pressure that we all had. So for them to get over that hump and come out on the winning side and experience the elation they have, it’s priceless.”

From the beginning of the day, Fox Chapel showed its determination. Out of the No. 1 spot, Scott Bitar, this year’s WPIAL Class AAA individual champ, fired a 76 to put the Foxes out in front.

The lone junior of the group, Aidan Oehrle, finished with an 82, then D’Ambrosio and Mattioli turned their scores in. As the final golfers came in, the depth of Fox Chapel started to show. After not playing in the semifinal on Tuesday, senior Brevin Urso rounded out Fox Chapel’s top five scorers with an 84.

“We’ve been so close in the past couple years,” Bitar said. “This feels great. It’s awesome.”

Now, the Foxes will move on to the PIAA championship, which is something they’ve been looking to accomplish for quite some time. Deal said he felt a little weight come off his shoulders on Thursday.

“It was a good day today,” Deal said.

While the Fox Chapel boys team was looking for its first team title since 2006, the girls team was chasing its first since 2010. And just like the boys, the girls had quite the hurdle to get over as well, with North Allegheny shooting for its fifth straight Class AAA title.

Ultimately, it was Upper St. Clair that came out on top with a team score of 340, ousting the defending champions by four strokes.

Led by sophomores Erin Drahnak (81) and Nina Busch (88) the Foxes finished 16 strokes back of the champions to cap off a season where they finished the regular season with an undefeated record and defended their Section 4-AAA championship.

With three sophomores in the starting lineup, the Foxes have a bright future and coach John Broderick thought their appearance in the championship was a great opportunity for his team to get accustomed to what it will take.

“This was a good year of gaining experience,” Broderick said. “We didn’t make it this far last year, so this was good for Nina, Grace (Rygelski) and Erin. To be on this stage and see this event, it’s a big event and so it was a good experience to see what it takes to perform.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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