Shady Side Academy, Quaker Valley, earn redemption and capture WPIAL boys tennis team titles

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 | 8:33 PM

It was a year of redemption at the WPIAL boys tennis team championships on Wednesday at North Allegheny High School.

Two years after coming up short on the same stage, Shady Side Academy and Quaker Valley captured WPIAL titles by a 3-2 score.

After losing to Fox Chapel 3-2 in 2019, the Bulldogs captured the Class AAA title by defeating top-seeded Franklin Regional. They captured victories at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, along with No. 1 doubles. It was their first WPIAL title since 2014 and their eighth overall.

“I’m just so proud of all of our players. They came, and they competed all year long from the start,” Shady Side Academy coach Sam Miller said. “I’m proud and happy for our two senior captains Colin (Gramley) and Adeel (Piracha), who have lost the last two WPIAL finals and now they finally get over the hump.”

The Quakers dropped a 3-2 decision to Indiana two years ago and were motivated to get back to the WPIAL championship this season. They fell behind early, but both doubles teams came through.

Quaker Valley coach Christi Hays said they used their loss from two seasons ago as a catalyst for their first WPIAL title since 2003.

“We talked about it a lot this past week, and I said, ‘Guys, look, we’ve had some disappointments. we let some opportunities get away from us. This is another opportunity, but with opportunity, comes responsibility and it’s up to you guys to just get it done,’ ” Hays said.

Mike Sirianni earned the Quakers a point at No. 1 singles with a 6-2, 6-1 score, but the Quakers lost at No. 2 and No. 3 singles as South Park’s Ethan Bowden (7-5, 6-3) and Dylan Weiss (6-3, 6-4) earned the victories.

The match came down to Quaker Valley’s two doubles teams, and Hays has had confidence in her team’s depth all season.

“My first doubles always like to go to three sets. I think they like the drama,” Hays said with a laugh. “But then to have it come down to this, you can’t really write a screenplay that good.”

The doubles teams of Thomas Pangburn and Michael Lipton and Jack Bresch and Justin Hajdukiewicz came away with victories to secure the win.

Pangburn and Lipton won their first set, 6-1, but dropped their second set 6-4. With their backs against the wall, Pangburn and Lipton earned a 6-2 victory.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Pangburn said. “Two years ago, we lost in the third set. So we wanted it really bad this year. It’s been two years in the making so we are pretty pumped up.”

Bresch and Hajdukiewicz won their first set as well before dropping their second set 6-4. Then, with the match on the line, Bresch, who is a senior captain alongside Pangburn, served his first ace of the season on the first point of the game and led the Quakers to a WPIAL title.

“I just had to put it all on the table and whatever happened, happened,” Bresch said. “I was just hoping for the best.”

Before the Quakers stormed back for their first title in nearly 18 years, the Bulldogs controlled their match against the Panthers from the beginning.

Advait Kulkarni captured the first point for the Panthers with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Shady Side senior Adam Lauer, but that’s where their momentum stopped and Shady Side’s started.

Playing at No. 2 singles, Piracha battled with Franklin Regional’s Shrey Ramesh, and the seniors went back and forth. But it was Piracha, who placed third at the WPIAL singles tournament, who came out on top 6-4, 6-2.

“This was just great to get a shot at redemption,” Piracha said. “Sophomore year we got second place and now we finally get a shot to redeem ourselves and get the win.”

After Piracha’s captured Shady Side’s first point of the match, the team of Sam Bitzer and Will Karet captured No. 1 doubles with a 6-4, 6-1 win over the Franklin Regional team of Vishal Thulasiram and Adi Arkalgud.

Coming into the match, the Panthers said they were hoping to capture both doubles matches, so once Gramley saw his teammates finish the job he was even more excited.

“Seeing them pull off that first set made me feel so relieved,” Gramley said. “I knew Adeel was going to pull it out so at that point I had to just focus on myself and let everything else just fall into place.”

Gramley was then in the position he wanted to be in all year long. He was one of two matches remaining, and it was squarely in his hands. At that point, he had won the first set against Anup Nadesan, 6-3, and was leading in the second set.

Things started to change, though, as he was leading 4-1. Nadesan took back-to-back games from Gramley, but the WPIAL singles runner-up didn’t panic.

“He held a tight game. Then I was up 40-love, and I lost my service game, so in that moment I was just thinking, ‘We’re back on serve now. It’s all good,’ ” Gramley said. “I just had to stay calm and put the last two games out of my head.”

Gramley responded with two straight game victories to capture the title for Shady Side.

“This is just ridiculous because we’ve been trying to do it for two years, then we got last year taken away from us,” Gramley said. “So right now, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

All four teams from Wednesday’s tournament will advance to the PIAA tournament next week, and they will be joined by Class AA third-place finisher North Catholic, which defeated Valley, 4-1, on Wednesday.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .

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