Sewickley Academy boys tennis looks forward to WPIAL playoffs

Sunday, May 1, 2022 | 10:01 AM

Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder had not met freshman Severin Harmon before this season.

Snyder did not know Harmon and would not have recognized him. And he surely had not seen him in competition on a tennis court.

Well, Harmon made a great first impression on the Panthers’ veteran coach.

Harmon quickly established himself at the No. 1 singles position on the SA team and played well enough to advance to the WPIAL 3A singles tournament.

“Severin’s an outstanding tennis player and an outstanding golfer,” Snyder said. “For him to play No. 1 singles as a freshman is impressive. He’s very mature, way beyond his years. And he’s humble. He has no ego. He’s just a joy to coach.”

SA’s second and third singles spots are held by junior Jonathan Varghese and Rohan Shah, the only senior on the team. Shah and Varghese are co-captains.

“Rohan has moved up in the lineup this year,” Snyder said. “He is one of our captains and is class president. He will be attending the University of Pennsylvania.

“Jonathan is our other co-captain. He played at No. 1 singles last year.”

Varghese has a 4.12 GPA and plays tennis year-round, training four or five days per week. He volunteers at his church and at a local hospital.

“I’ve also done some work with non-profits in the medial setting,” he said.

Varghese, like Shah, takes his role as a team captain seriously.

“As co-captain, it’s my responsibility to be a leader, and to encourage the guys to stay motivated and focused,” Varghese said. “It’s my job to push them to be the best they can be every day, whether it’s a practice or a match.

“My season has certainly been quite challenging but also a blast. I absolutely love competing alongside the guys, especially during the couple of marathon matches I’ve played this year. I had long matches against Mt. Lebanon and North Hills. It was certainly tough because I was playing good opponents who were competing just as hard as I was. I just tried to find a way to stay in the present and keep my confidence up. I love those matches because they test you the most. I hope my game continues to go forward and I can keep contributing to the team.”

Shah has a 4.16 GPA and plans to major in bioengineering at Penn. Like Varghese, Shah plays tennis year-round.

“We had pretty high expectations for the year,” Shah said. “We had an early exit in the playoffs last year and were hoping to rebound this year with a stronger and more grounded team, and we’ve been very successful so far. The team has played very well and we are looking very strong going into the playoffs.

“The year for me personally has been extremely valuable serving as a team captain. I’ve acted as a mentor to a lot of the new players on the team and have done my best to ensure we always have the right mindset going into tennis practices and matches day in and day out. Whether it is helping them strategize or improve technique, I do what I can to ensure we all are getting better not only individually but as a team.”

Rounding out the Panthers’ starting lineup are Spencer Kryzinski and Tejas Mitra at No. 1 doubles, and Alexander Quigley and Jayden Garcha at No. 2. Kryzinski and Quigley are juniors; Mitra and Garcha are sophomores.

The Kryzinski/Mitra tandem advanced to the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL doubles tournament this year.

Two sophomores, Logan Carlson and Jackson Quigley, Alexander’s younger brother, round out the squad.

“I knew the teams in our section would be very competitive,” Snyder said. “We wanted to try to get better as the season went on and play our best tennis at the end of the year. Our doubles teams hadn’t played together until this year.

“I think the team has gotten better. We want to be able to gain experience in the next couple of matches; we don’t want to be caught off-guard in the playoffs. Hopefully, the kids will gain that experience and embrace the moment in the playoffs.”

Embracing the moment is exactly what the Panthers are looking forward to achieving.

“My expectations coming into this season were pretty high,” Varghese said. “I knew we had a good group of guys that was not only hungry to win but also hungry to get better each day.

“So far, we’ve grown closer as the season has gone on and we’ve battled and played well. I think we are really coming together as a team and I hope we can stay motivated and hungry. We want to keep this positive energy going into the playoffs and hopefully make a good run.”

The WPIAL team championships will be held May 11 at the Janet L. Swanson Tennis Center on the Washington & Jefferson campus.

First round matches through the quarterfinals will take place at home sites. Semifinal matches will be held at neutral sites.

“I still have high expectations for the team,” Varghese said. “We know that every (playoff) match is ‘win or go home’ so the mentality is to fight no matter who we play. I’m confident that we can go far this year.”

Sewickley ended the regular season with a 6-1 record in the section, won by North Allegheny with a 7-0 mark.

The Panthers, who in recent years have moved from 2A to 3A, defeated North Hills, Butler, Seneca Valley, Moon, West Allegheny and Pine-Richland in section action.

“I am expecting us to be a very competitive team going into the playoffs,” Shah said, “and hope we can turn some heads and upset big-name schools. We have a super deep team that I think can surprise some people.”

Snyder, who is in his 31st season as SA’s coach, has set the bar high for tennis excellence while building one of the great dynasties in WPIAL history.

He has led the Panthers to 25 section titles and 23 WPIAL championships since 1993. SA also has advanced to the PIAA finals eight times under Snyder, a SA graduate, and won three titles (2006, 2016, 2017).

The Panthers captured 16 consecutive section crowns from 2003-18 and were WPIAL champions 15 years in a row from 2004-18. The run of consecutive team championships is the second-longest streak in any sport in WPIAL history.


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