Fox Chapel, Indiana capture WPIAL boys tennis team titles

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 | 4:16 PM

Fox Chapel and Indiana joined elite clubs at Wednesday’s WPIAL boys tennis team championships at Oxford Athletic Club in Wexford.

The Foxes held off Shady Side Academy, 3-2, to capture the WPIAL Class AAA title. Fox Chapel is the third Class AAA team to win four consecutive titles since competition was split into two classifications in 1993. Upper St. Clair did it twice (1995-98 and 2004-07).

Meanwhile, the Little Indians beat Quaker Valley, 3-2, to become the first Class AA winner other than Sewickley Academy since 2003.

Neither victory came easy. Fox Chapel needed Milo Baron’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-0 win over Adeel Paracha to secure the title.

“This is incredibly special. It’s been a great group of kids over the past four years. It’s tennis dynasty stuff,” Fox Chapel coach Alex Slezak said. “This has been the hardest (championship) we’ve had. We knew Shady Side was our No. 1 competitor, and we knew it’d be a battle.”

Robby Shymansky won at first singles, and Jay Kashyap and Brandon Wei teamed up for a 6-1, 7-5 victory in first doubles for the Foxes.

“This is super sweet,” Kashyap said. “This is probably the most hyped match we’ve ever played, and it was fun to win and I am proud of the team. There was a lot of pressure, especially for Brandon and me since our match is one of the ones we were counting on to win.

“There was definitely a lot of tension in that second set when it was close.”

The two were able to pull out the victory against Shady Side Academy, which got wins from Colin Gramley at second singles and Ateas Aggarwal and Jack Uhlman at second doubles.

“Coming in, it was kind of a toss-up. So to get this one is huge,” Wei said. “We had a bunch of good matches today. In the two matches we lost, we had huge comebacks, which was nice to see. We’re improving and we’re always fighting to come back.”

Class AA

The championship door opened for Indiana and Quaker Valley after Sewickley Academy elected to play up in Class AAA this season. The Little Indians (14-4), the runners-up the past three years, secured their elusive crown.

“Basically, you take Sewickley Academy out of the picture, and anyone can win it. We’ve been the runner-up for three years in a row, so you kind of had the feeling we could do this. As long as Sewickley was in the picture, we had no chance,” Indiana coach Phil Palko said.

“Hats off to Quaker Valley. It had to be the best WPIAL Double-A team championship in history because all the rest of them were terrible since Sewickley pretty much blew everyone out. You have to go back eons ago to maybe find some good team matches, but this one was fantastic.”

It all came down to third singles, too. The Little Indians’ Zachary Palko and Joey Budjos cruised to singles wins, and the Quakers’ Zach Albert and John Watters and Potter Oliver and Thomas Pangbourn teamed up for doubles victories.

With his teammates cheering him on, Indiana’s Evan Ray rallied to beat Will Sirianni, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, to lock up the championship.

“This feels so good. This is one of the best moments of my life,” Ray said. “I felt a lot of pressure, but it energized me and fueled me to not get tired and I ended up winning the match. It felt great. We’ve been looking forward to it all year. It felt great to finally win.”

Coach Palko was happy to see his senior pull out the decisive victory.

“It was unbelievable. It was such a contrast of players,” he said. “You have Evan, who is making stuff up and just getting the ball in play and using his athleticism to outlast, going against a kid who is hitting traditional topspin groundstrokes, trying to hit winners. It was an epic battle, and you didn’t know how it’d go.

“He’s mentally tough. He has been there before. I think that was really important.”

Both teams open play in the PIAA tournament Tuesday.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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