Kiski Area, Valley, Highlands gear up for WPIAL team tennis tournament
Friday, April 29, 2022 | 6:33 PM
The Kiski Area boys tennis team opens the WPIAL Class 3A team tournament Tuesday as the No. 9 seed, and the Cavaliers, the runner-up to Franklin Regional in Section 1, will take on No. 8 Central Catholic at 3 p.m. at Norwin.
The matchup comes almost 10 years to the day from the last time Kiski Area took park in a WPIAL team tournament match.
That day, May 7, 2012, the Cavaliers, led by WPIAL singles qualifier Charles Law, as well as Tyler and Thad Paunovich and Zach Ferraccio, came in as the No. 11 seed and lost 5-0 to No. 6 Central Catholic in the first round.
This year’s group hopes for a different first-round outcome, and coach Trent Goerk feels they can make it happen.
“We’ve been building the program and hoping to have a team that would collectively be able to get to the team playoffs,” Goerk said. “We’ve had some guys who have made WPIAL singles and doubles throughout the past decade but not the whole team. The section has been challenging for a while with some really good teams. But our guys were pretty experienced from last year, and they put everything together. I am really proud of them for their play all season.”
Kiski Area missed the playoffs by one match last year. Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford, Latrobe and Norwin got the tournament bids from the section.
The Cavaliers will have juniors Jackson Newell and Nate Coleman and sophomore Calder Gee in the singles spots, and juniors Tre Curry and Andres Bordoy at No. 1 doubles, with junior Ethan Beck and senior Zach Jordan at No. 2 doubles.
The winner between the Cavaliers and Vikings will take on the winner of No. 1 Franklin Regional and No. 16 Moon in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Kiski Area finished section play 5-2 with its losses coming to Franklin Regional, 5-0, and Hempfield, 3-2.
It punched its playoff ticket with key wins over Norwin, 3-2, and Connellsville, 5-0. The Cavaliers won the tiebreaker over Norwin, also 5-2 in section, and earned the better seed.
The top two finishers in Class 3A advance to the PIAA playoffs.
While Kiski Area makes its long-awaited playoff return, Valley keeps rolling, and the Vikings are in the Class 2A playoffs for the fifth year in a row.
Valley finished 6-1 in Section 3-2A, runner-up to North Catholic (7-0), and is the No. 6 seed. It will host Hampton in the first round at 3 p.m. Monday.
The Vikings, led by senior team captains Dario Wolfe (No. 3 singles) and Nate Clarke (No. 1 doubles), are hoping for another deep run after making it to the semifinals last year as the No. 3 seed.
“We had a number of players move up after last year, and I like how everyone adapted,” said Wolfe, who will play in college at Allegheny. “We’ve played really well as a team all season, and I like our chances in the playoffs.”
Wolfe and juniors Nicholas Bussard (No. 1) and Dylan Gentile (No. 2) will form the singles lineup Monday, while Clarke and junior Ethan Harcelrode and the duo of junior Zachary Doran and freshman Landon Harcelrode are the doubles teams.
Valley broke through to the semifinals last year after losing in the quarterfinals three years in a row.
“We entered this season with realistic optimism, having five guys in new positions and three of them being first-year starters,” Valley coach Rachael Link said. “Our focus as a team was to elevate the caliber of our game and enhance our court savviness.
“Finishing in second place in our competitive section is a feat owed to their determination and unwavering work ethic during every practice and match. The rapid growth was propelled by the fact that they have each other to train and against and with.”
Highlands is a playoff team for the fourth straight season. The Golden Rams lost in the first round in 2018 but advanced to the quarterfinals in 2019 and last year.
The Golden Rams finished 4-3 Section 3-2A, fourth behind North Catholic, Valley and Indiana (5-2).
They begin tournament play Monday as the No. 13 seed and will visit No. 4 Thomas Jefferson at 3.
“This team started to come together last summer,” said veteran coach Tyler Kirin, who won his 100th match as Highlands coach against Knoch on March 24. “These guys love to play the game, and they are out here developing their skills and working to get better. A lot of this is because of what they do and their dedication to themselves and each other. I could tell early on that things were coming together and we had a good shot at the playoffs. I like our chances Monday.”
Sophomore Sam Norris leads the way at No. 1 singles, followed by senior Richard Ratliff and junior Luke Vunora at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. The doubles teams Monday are expected to be senior laden with Ronald Ratliff and Daniel Babinsack at No. 1 and Seth Gorney and Jake Peters at No. 2.
“I am very excited for this match against TJ,” Norris said. “We have a good shot. Some people might not think we can win on Monday. But I think we are a better team than the No. 13 seed. We’ll have a chance to prove it.”
In Class 2A, the top three teams advance to states.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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