Gateway boys tennis sets eyes on WPIAL playoff spot

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Saturday, March 23, 2019 | 9:14 AM


It’s been nine seasons since the Gateway boys tennis team showed up in a WPIAL Class AAA postseason bracket and, for the Gators, that’s long enough.

Gateway coach Rochelle Seilhamer feels if her team can beat the teams it should and upset a few along the way, the Gators can earn their first trip to the postseason this decade.

“That’s what I’m hoping, and that’s what I’m driving towards,” said Seilhamer, who is in her 10th season as coach.

Gateway (1-2, 1-1) picked up an elusive upset win last week.

The Gators downed Section 1-AAA rival Norwin, 3-2, to open the section schedule with confidence and optimism. The win was big because Seilhamer counted Norwin as one of the teams her Gators needed to upset along the way.

Unfortunately for Seilhamer, she wasn’t there to see the big win. She was home sick.

“I called five times throughout the match versus Norwin,” Seilhamer said. “I was almost ready to cry. They were just ecstatic that they did that, and they fought hard.”

A few days later, the Gators went against a stacked Hempfield team that won 5-0. The loss to the Spartans, while humbling, was to be expected. Hempfield is one of the favorites to win the section.

“Hempfield didn’t lose any of their starters, and I kind of knew that they weren’t going to do well,” Seilhamer said.

The Gators lost three starters from last season’s team, with two being seniors. The direction of this season will be determined by how fast they can learn the sport and apply that to competition.

“More maturity,” Seilhamer said about the her team’s needs. “I think a lot of them are still trying to figure out the game. At practice, they hit the ball, but they’re still figuring out what do and what not to do. Some of them get it. We have some newbies that have never played, and we have our work cut out for us.”

Senior captains Matt Harris and Braxton Harvey will compete at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively. Seilhamer said the team’s success this season will start with the two captains. Sophomore Ryan Tandoc is slotted at No. 3 singles.

Seilhamer also likes the look of her twin-brother duo in David and Nathan Clark at No. 1 doubles. She said the brothers are tall and athletic.

“Matt (Harris), Braxton (Harvey), David and Nathan (Clark) and Adam (Almoukamal) are the main drive of the team,” Seilhamer said. “If we can get them to get the other boys moving along, we’re going to be OK.”

Junior Jacob Daum and freshman Adam Almoukamal will get the start at No. 2 doubles.

Gateway is part of the nine-team super section that is Section 1-AAA. The Gators finished sixth in the section last season. The top four teams make the postseason.

Seilhamer feels her Gators stack up well against Kiski Area, Connellsville and Armstrong. It’s the other half of the section that could get in the way of a postseason spot. With the Norwin victory and the Hempfield loss out of the way, Seilhamer said the Gators need to get at least one win over either Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford or Latrobe.

“It’s always Franklin Regional, Hempfield, Latrobe, Norwin and sometimes Penn-Trafford,” Seilhamer said. “We need to beat another one of those five teams but we do have to also beat Armstrong, Kiski and Connellsville.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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