Hampton tennis wraps up team season in WPIAL quarters

Friday, April 27, 2018 | 1:06 AM

It could have been the end before the beginning for the Hampton boys tennis team, but a strong core of singles players weren't going to let that happen.

Hampton recently capped the team season with a 4-1 loss to Shady Side Academy in the WPIAL quarterfinals. But it was another step forward for a group that could have gone in a different direction.

The team was dealt a severe blow in the winter when No. 1 singles player Ben Ringeisen suffered an ankle injury.

The Talbots, returning all of their singles players to a team that lost a 3-2 match with Mt. Lebanon in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs last year, were going to have to lean on their depth and doubles.

Both worked out well. The Talbots earned their first playoff victory in five years with a win over Penn-Trafford. Likewise, Ringeisen was able to return for the last portion of the team season to regain his No. 1 spot.

For the majority of the year it was senior Ted Donegan, who made the jump from No. 2 last year.

“Everyone on the team stepped up and played a lot better,” said Donegan, who finished 9-3 in the regular season, most of which was against the opposition's best competition. “You could tell that everyone was working hard in the offseason and knew this was the year to make a run in the playoffs.”

Donegan, who had a brief stint at the top spot as a sophomore, thinks the experience will have him ready for the singles and doubles portion of the season.

“They hit so hard, and it's difficult to return a lot of their serves and backhands,” he said. “It's definitely a lot easier moving back down because the ball seems slower.”

Equally noteworthy was the performance of sophomore Abheet Badrinath, who developed a cordial and competitive relationship with the older Donegan.

“It's been fantastic to have two top guys,” coach Grant McKinney said. “They are very close in terms of skill. Abheet looks up to Ted, kind of as the sophomore looking up to the senior.

“He wants to give it his all each time out and pushes Ted to be his best.

McKinney noted the contrasting styles: Donegan's athletic prowess allows him to play at the net, and he's not prone to unforced errors, whereas Badrinath lives on the baseline, takes more chances and hits a hard ball.

According to Donegan, after one set each in a challenge match, the players were locked at near even.

McKinney decided to go with the older player to be his top man.

The move worked. Badrinath finished the year 11-1 at the No. 2 spot. The third spot was shuffled in and out, with options that included senior Sai Kondisetti and a doubles player.

“We definitely like playing with each other,” Donegan said.

“I'd say we're pretty even skill level. It's real competitive. We definitely push each other a lot for the team and singles in general.”

There's plenty more competition to be had as Donegan and Ringeisen will hope to win the section and WPIAL titles that eluded them previously on their run to states. The duo finished second in both tournaments last year.

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.


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