Fox Chapel tennis again hunting WPIAL title

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM

If there's a pressure situation this week for the Fox Chapel boys tennis team in its quest for a third consecutive WPIAL title, it can turn to Milo Barron to lighten the mood.

Barron, a sophomore who plays third singles, jokingly compared the Foxes to the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s that won three consecutive titles on two separate occasions in a span of eight years.

“We're like (Michael) Jordan and them in '93,” joked Barron, with his teammates laughing behind him. “Everyone knew that they were the team to beat, and they still couldn't beat them.”

The Foxes can't claim as many titles as the Bulls just yet, but they've been pretty successful the last few years and are confident they can add another championship this year.

Fox Chapel, the top seed in Class AAA, faces North Allegheny in the semifinals Tuesday at Shady Side Academy. The Foxes swept both playoff matches thus far, over Chartiers Valley in the first round on Wednesday and Franklin Regional in the quarterfinals Monday.

As the Foxes go deeper into the playoffs, they are wary of the target on their back, but they believe in themselves and each other that they can get the job done.

“We're still pretty confident because I think even before the last two (championships), teams knew how strong of a program we are, and they've been gunning for us for a while,” said Kurran Singh, who plays first doubles with Jay Kashyap. “We're going in with the same mentality that we have in previous years. Each one of us has their own character that they bring to the team. Some of them are motivational and others can calm you down when you need it. It's a really good group.”

The group is led by Robby Shymansky, a junior who plays first singles. Barron dubbed Shymansky and himself as “the freak show” at the No. 1 and No. 3 spot in the lineup for their ability to cover on the court.

Shymansky is the quieter half the duo; he couldn't help but laugh when Barron spoke, but he does his talking with his racquet. He swept Franklin Regional's Anup Nadsean, 6-0, 6-0 in the quarterfinals.

Jared Nord plays second singles. He also earned a sweep in his match Monday. Barron won 6-0, 6-2 in his match.

Tennis is a pretty important sport in the Nord family. Nord‘s older sister, Amanda, won the WPIAL Class 3A doubles title with Charlotte James in the fall. His mother plays, and so does his grandfather. Nord has also found a family type atmosphere amongst his teammates, which he credits for some of the success the Foxes have had.

“The team is always lifting you up. Even if you're down or it's a tight match, they're always pumping me up to give me the energy to close out the match,” Nord said. “It's the same way in practice. We all are close friends.”

Singh and Kashyap have played together for two years and have developed a good chemistry on the court, which they displayed in a 6-2, 6-0 win against Franklin Regional's Sean Vannatta and Joey McGinn.

“Kurran's backhand is probably his stronger shot and my forehand is probably my strongest shot,” Kashyap said. “We both have decent volleys. We complement each other well, and that allows us to work well together.”

Brandon Wei and Shan Hassan play second doubles and cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 win Monday.

Fox Chapel coach Alex Slezak had to take a sabbatical from coaching and teaching last year while recovering from back surgery, so he saw last year's championship from afar. He's happy to be back coaching and is hopeful another title is in the cards. The last team to win three Class AAA titles in a row was neighboring Shady Side Academy from 2012-14.

The majority of the team has tasted a championship experience twice, and they want that experience again.

“The third one would be pretty special,” Kashyap said. “We did it two times before, and it was a great feeling. It makes you want to win it again.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.


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