Shady Side Academy doubles champs turn attention to PIAA tournament

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Saturday, May 7, 2022 | 11:01 AM


After missing last season because of elbow surgery and 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Shady Side Academy junior David Mnuskin wanted to make the most of a rare opportunity.

Mnuskin and doubles partner Sam Bitzer brought home the WPIAL Class 3A doubles title to Shady Side by defeating Franklin Regional’s No. 2-seeded duo of Perit Yadiv and Dhruv Kulkarni, 6-3, 6-3, at windswept North Allegheny High School.

“It’s huge since I didn’t get to play last year,” Mnuskin said of the title victory. “It was especially good to do it this year because Sam is a senior and he won’t have another chance at WPIAL doubles.”

“It’s a good feeling,” Bitzer said. “You work hard at it for a few years and it finally pays off. There’s nothing better.”

Bitzer and Mnuskin were seeded fourth in the tournament. The Bulldogs’ tandem began their climb with a 10-0 victory over No. 13 Jackson Newell and Nate Coleman of Kiski Area, followed by a 10-3 quarterfinal win over Joshua Kim and Brandon McEwen of North Hills.

In the semifinals, Bitzer and Mnuskin faced top-seeded Andrew and Aaron Allen of Franklin Regional and prevailed 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. The Allens were coming off a win over eighth-seeded Cooper Friday and Will Siegel of Fox Chapel.

The finals were played under cold, blustery conditions that threatened to take away focus from the competition itself.

“My opinion is both teams are playing in it, so it’s not an advantage or disadvantage,” according to Bitzer. “You try not to think about it. You adjust your game a little bit and try to get the other person to make mistakes.”

Said Mnuskin: “For myself, I think that weather was brutal, playing outdoors. We definitely had to make some smart adjustments, hitting with more spin. We had to keep it simple. It was hard to run fancy plays while the wind was blowing all over the place.”

Still, the pair was confident after three victories the previous day.

“We felt we had a good shot, we were playing good doubles together as a team,” Bitzer said. “Nobody could point a finger and say they could beat us, and we wanted to go out there and prove it.”

Although Bitzer and Mnuskin had known each other since middle school, this year was the first time they had played doubles together.

Bitzer and Mnuskin are now the 11th doubles champions from Shady Side, all coming since 1996. The Bulldogs’ pair will be back for the PIAA tournament May 27 when they face the No. 3 team from District 1 (Philadelphia suburbs) at 8 a.m. at Hershey Racquet Club.

Bitzer is headed for Bucknell in the fall and hopes to continue his tennis career there.

Mnuskin plans to start looking at potential colleges as his junior year closes. He also hopes to play tennis as a collegian.

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