Hampton tennis facing challenges with new lineup, section
Thursday, April 11, 2019 | 10:17 PM
With its top seniors and expected No. 1 player not returning, the Hampton boys tennis team has a challenging road to get back to the playoffs.
But a handful of seniors have stepped up, and last year’s No. 3, Abheet Badrinath, has grown comfortable in his role as top singles player, which is helping the team deal with a tough new section. The Talbots (4-5) might not be the most talented, but they’re competing each match.
“I think the jump from third to first singles is an opportunity he’s relished,” coach Grant McKinney said of Badrinath. “It gives him an opportunity to play the best kids in Pittsburgh.
“He hits really well-placed forehands and backhands, and I think that gives him the ability to hang in there against stronger opponents.”
Badrinath advanced to the section singles quarterfinals Monday before losing to defending WPIAL champion Robby Shymansky from Fox Chapel in three sets.
“Every time, we just talk about how we approach each point,” McKinney said. “And how you keep fighting when you feel the other kid is a notch better than what you’re used to. And I think he’s generally risen to that task this year.”
Ben Ringeisen, who held the No. 1 role since entering the program his freshman year, did not return to the team.
“My family and I decided it was a long basketball season, and I needed some time off to focus on school,” he said.
Senior Peter Fung steps in as a versatile No. 2 singles player.
“He likes to play all over the court,” McKinney said. “Some guys will just take the baseline, but he enjoys coming to the net and challenging the opponent. It’s a nice feature of his game.”
Freshman Ethan Oh rounds out the singles lineup. What he is lacking in experience, he makes up for with energy and enthusiasm.
“He really seems to love the game of tennis,” McKinney said. “He doesn’t have a lot of competitive experience. But he has all the different shots and is still developing. He’s an excitable young man, and I think it’s given the team some fun energy.”
The doubles have featured a rotation of seniors who mostly have occupied the No. 1 positions — Peter Andrews and captain Alex Butch — and Joey Cafaro, who was a state qualifier in cross country in the fall and has played at second doubles.
The team moved to a different section this year, which wasn’t for the better — at least immediately. Fox Chapel and Shady Side Academy boast two top-flight WPIAL programs, and Allderdice and Central Catholic return with strong, experienced squads.
“Those two teams are perennially good,” McKinney said. “When you put a talented Allderdice team in the section, and we had a close loss to Central Catholic, as well, so all our section losses were to four pretty good teams.”