Pine-Richland boys tennis team tries to find footing

Friday, April 5, 2019 | 5:14 PM

As the WPIAL regular season for boys tennis nears its halfway point, Pine-Richland is seeing mixed results as it tries to find its groove.

Up to this point, qualifying for the WPIAL team playoffs is still on the table for the Rams (2-3, 2-2), who are halfway to their Section 2-AAA win total from last season.

However, coach Janet Chappell said she would like to see stronger signs of improvement before assuming a playoff berth is a foregone conclusion.

“The kids are doing well and have really improved, but I think there’s just still a ways to go. I don’t have to tell you that, because our team record says it all,” Chappell said.

“We can still get fourth in the section, hopefully. That would get us in the playoffs. But usually we’re looking for a top-two finish in section. These kids are improving, and we’re better than we were, but we’ve lost matches that we shouldn’t have and I need to see that they’re ready to recover from that.”

Pine-Richland features a trio of experienced players in their singles lineup, with Kang-Young Kim remaining in the top spot he manned last season. Junior Jason Minicozzi is slotted as the team’s second singles player after playing doubles last season. Sophomore Ethan Chan and junior A.J. Silipo are receiving extended looks in the third singles spot.

The doubles pairings have helped carry the team. Sophomore Elliot Alexander has maintained a solid grip on first doubles along with either Silipo or Derek Bashe, the team’s lone senior.

“We rebuilt the team last year, but now we’re trying to find ways to keep upgrading,” Chappell said.

“Some of them have really picked it up. Derek and Elliot are two guys that have really come a long way. I would say they are the two most improved players that we have.”

The second doubles pairing for the Rams is freshman Justin Bang and occasionally Bashe. Other times, Chappell will give one of the team’s freshmen a look in the second doubles slot. The team’s youngsters have displayed a bright future, particularly Colby Ohlund.

“I have a bunch of ninth graders that are all pretty good, but Justin won that spot and now Ohlund has been doing a great job, too. He’s our eighth guy, and he hasn’t lost for us yet,” Chappell said.

“The young guys, they will compete. Some of them need to learn how to serve, but they absolutely compete very hard every time they’re on the court. I love that. I think things will continue to trend the right way because they are going to be there to continue to push the older guys for starting spots.”


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