Sewickley Academy’s ‘skillful seven’ made it a tennis season to remember

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Sunday, June 11, 2023 | 11:01 AM


It’s not Murderer’s Row. That’s an old phrase coined for the then-dreaded 1927 New York Yankees.

They’re not the Fantastic Four comic book and movie heroes. There are too many of them.

Call them the Skillful Seven — the starting lineup this season for the Sewickley Academy boys tennis team.

The Panthers legitimized their top billing in the WPIAL Class 2A tennis tournament, defeating sixth seed Winchester Thurston, 4-1, in the WPIAL finals May 10 at Washington & Jefferson’s Janet L. Swanson Tennis Center.

“I’m extra proud of them because they had not been in that (playoff) situation in the past,” coach Whitney Snyder said. “They got better and better as the season went on. I’m just proud of their passion, their commitment. I think with this group if was all about relationships.”

Sewickley’s lineup was anchored by sophomore Severin Harmon, senior Jonathan Varghese and sophomore Sebastian Tan at No. 1-2-3 singles.

“I think we’re all pretty happy with the season,” said Harmon, the Panthers’ top singles player the past two years. “We improved a lot throughout the season, and that’s super rewarding for all of us.”

Harmon finished as the WPIAL runner-up in 2A this season.

“Next year, we are going to lose a few key seniors,” he said, “but we will also gain some really solid players. Our goals of winning championships and competing for WPIAL and state titles are still present as we look towards next season.”

SA’s doubles pairs consisted of senior Spencer Krysinski with junior Jackson Quigley and senior Alexander Quigley with sophomore Jason Chen.

“There were a lot of unknowns this year,” Snyder said. “Our doubles teams hadn’t played together; those kids didn’t know who their partners would be. Both doubles teams developed good chemistry and won a lot of big matches for us.”

So, it appears the prime-time Panthers will be strong again in 2024 with Snyder welcoming four returning starters back plus junior Logan Carlson, the team’s top reserve, and five JV players: juniors Lucas Ratkovich and Peter Shillingsburg, sophomore Jiakui Xu and freshmen Luke Palguta and Ahran Purewal.

There also will be additional incoming freshman looking to make an immediate impact in 2024.

“We have to replace three starters,” Snyder said, “and that’s what we had to do this year. But with the success they’ve experienced, I think they’re excited and look to build on that.

“They represented Sewickley Academy with a lot of pride and passion.”

Varghese was a four-year starter for the Panthers, one year at first singles and three at second singles.

“I’m proud of our results this season,” Varghese said. “The last three years, we’ve been in 3A and never made it past the second round of the WPIAL playoffs. It felt really special in my senior year to get back to Sewickley’s former glory with the tennis program and win WPIALs in 2A.

“Going to the PIAA playoffs was a whole new experience, but the team was dialed in and handled it all really well. We competed hard like we did all season. It was tough to lose in the semis because we know we’re a team capable of winning states, but the competition was really high level and we battled till the end.”

Varghese, who advanced to the WPIAL singles tournament, said Sewickley Academy was a confident bunch right from the start.

“Our expectation at the beginning of the year was to win WPIALs and the PIAA,” he said. “We knew we would be one of the top teams, so we set our goals really high and tried to work toward them.

“I’m happy to be part of a special team and to lead them this season. Each of the guys gave his full effort every day, and we all got better as a result.”

Varghese served as team captain.

“Jonathan offered constant encouragement,” Snyder said. “He’s a tremendous leader as well as a tremendous player.”

Alex Quigley was another one of the three athletes who provided senior leadership on the team.

“I thought varsity tennis was especially great this year, especially since we made it far into states,” he said. ”It was the most fun I’ve had in any sport throughout my life. I have played varsity tennis for three years, and I have loved every bit of it.”

A three-year starter, Quigley said he enjoyed playing for Sewickley because of the camaraderie between the players. All of his teammates would cheer from the sidelines when he was competing on the court.

“Another favorite memory was winning the WPIAL championship,” he said, “and when we went swimming at the hotel in Hershey. And I have played varsity with Jackson for two years. It was fun and we never had any difficulties, which is common between brothers.”

Krysinski said he thoroughly enjoyed his high school tennis career, particularly competing in the postseason. He was a three-year varsity team member.

“My varsity tennis career was great,” he said. “All the love to my teammates and coach Whit. And one of my favorite memories was beating Peters Township in the first round of the 3A playoffs.”

Sewickley was 7-1 in Section 4-2A before advancing to the WPIAL and PIAA tournaments and ending up 13-4 overall.

Tan believes another championship run is in the cards for the Panthers in 2024.

“I think the team did very well this year. We all played very close to our best tennis,” Tan said. “Next year, it looks like we have a good shot at winning WPIALs again, and maybe even states. We have some strong doubles players moving up.”

Chen is one of those strong doubles players at SA. He took a more conservative approach to next season.

“I thought our team’s performance this year was fantastic. We were an amazing team,” Chen said. “It was really fun this year. We all played really well

“Although we’re losing several key seniors, I believe we will still be really solid next year.”

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