H.S. boys tennis preview: Teams ‘amped up’ to start season

Sunday, March 14, 2021 | 5:48 PM

Last spring was one of loss for high school teams across the state as the covid pandemic caused the PIAA to suspend and ultimately cancel the spring sports season.

A renewed optimism abounded throughout the WPIAL one week ago with the start of practices, and good weather enabled boys tennis teams to get outside on the courts.

Teams didn’t have to wait long to play. Scrimmages started Saturday, and regular-season matches begin Monday.

“Everything is amped up threefold,” said South Fayette coach Brian Garlick, who saw good things from his squad in a scrimmage Saturday at Shaler.

“It was really tough to prepare for last season and start it with matches to then have it taken away. It was disappointing for everyone. I’ve been talking with a number of the other coaches who I play with in my old man’s league. They are excited, and their kids are excited. Safety protocols are all in place, and everybody hopes we can have a full season.”

Class AAA

Garlick knows South Fayette junior Jacob Patterson is among the players to beat in singles.

Patterson, ranked No. 3 among juniors in Pennsylvania at tennisrecruiting.net, made the WPIAL semifinals in 2019 before falling to Fox Chapel’s Robby Shymansky in the semifinals. Shymansky went on to claim his second WPIAL title and added a state championship to his portfolio.

“Jacob came back stronger and more talented than when he left off last year,” Garlick said. “We only got to play two matches, but he then played extensively throughout the East coast in national tournaments. He’s on fire. He was hitting well in our scrimmage. I can’t wait to see how he does this season.”

With tennis as one of the earliest spring sports to begin play, several teams last year played a match or two before things were shut down.

Fox Chapel, South Fayette, Mt. Lebanon and Franklin Regional were among teams that played.

Fox Chapel, technically, is the defending WPIAL champion, having won four straight in Class AAA through the 2019 campaign.

Graduation losses in 2019 and last year leaves the Foxes with four seniors as they work to build up their lineup in the early part of the season.

Franklin Regional is one of the most veteran teams as no players graduated. Senior three-year lettermen Anup Nadesan (No. 1 singles), Shrey Ramesh (No. 2 or 3 singles) and Advait Kulkami (No. 2 or 3 singles) lead the way as FR hopes to challenge for its first WPIAL team title.

Nadesan, ranked No. 12 among seniors in Pennsylvania, hopes to be among those in the singles title mix in Class AAA.

“We played Mt. Lebanon last year in our first match, and it was very close,” veteran Panthers coach Howard Fisher said. “We ended up losing 3-2, but it was an indicator we had something special. Mt. Lebanon always has a very nice team, and to play so well gave us confidence that we would’ve probably done very well in the season. We have a strong schedule with a lot of good teams, so we will be tested many times.”

Mt. Lebanon junior Philip Gorun also hopes for big things after making the WPIAL Class AAA singles quarterfinals in 2019.

Shady Side Academy and Peters Township qualified for the PIAA Class AAA team tournament in 2019 and are expected to also be among those again challenging for WPIAL team gold.

Class AA

Indiana hoped to repeat its 2019 WPIAL team title last spring as Zach Palko, now playing at St. Francis (Pa.), was ready to lead the way.

The race for the team title this season seems to be more wide open, Valley coach Rachael Link said.

Quaker Valley, the WPIAL runner-up to Indiana in 2019, hopes to contend with the brother duo of juniors Mike and Will Sirianni helping front the Quakers lineup. Mike was a 2019 WPIAL singles quarterfinalist, and Will teamed with the now-graduated Potter Oliver to finish as the WPIAL doubles runners-up and qualify for states.

Hampton, with veteran players ready to take the lead, could be an impact player after dropping down from Class AAA. Changes also include the addition of North Catholic to the Class AA team ranks.

Others hoping to make an impact in WPIAL singles include 2019 WPIAL quarterfinalists in South Park senior Joey Toth and Winchester Thurston senior Oscar Nigam.

“Joey has gotten stronger, and he worked really hard in the offseason knowing he would have this opportunity,” South Park coach Dawn Kempton said.

“With the seniors who have left, it has given a lot of younger guys throughout the WPIAL that change to make a run at a title.”

Valley, a perennial playoff qualifier, will have sophomores at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and will face Hampton and North Catholic in section play.

Michael Odrey led the Vikings the past several years, and he now plays at Grove City.

All four 2019 WPIAL singles semifinalists — Odrey, Palko, Thomas Jefferson’s Yash Maheshwari and Quaker Valley’s Andres Hubsch — hoped to contend as seniors in 2020 but were denied the opportunity.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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