Shaler’s Szazynski is 1st in at least 17 years to reach WPIAL singles tourney

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Sunday, April 11, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Shaler Area senior Cameron Szazynski wanted to keep punishing the second serve of Fox Chapel’s Cooper Friday last Wednesday.

Szazynski saw an opening during their Section 3-AAA quarterfinal match and worked to exploit it. The seventh-seeded Szazynski kept scoring points with strong returns and broke second-seeded Friday twice in the back half of the match to clinch a berth in the WPIAL tournament.

Szazynski is the first Shaler player in coach Brian Duermeyer’s 17 years with the program to qualify for the WPIAL tournament as a singles player. Szazynski played Allderdice’s Deniz Finkel in a consolation match last Thursday, the result of which was too late for this edition.

Szazynski, who plans to go to St. Petersburg (Fla.) Community College and train at a tennis academy next year, was thrilled with the outcome.

“(Friday’s) second serve was weak. I returned it easily,” Szazynski said. “I wasn’t a low seed, but I wasn’t that high. I don’t think he expected it from me.”

Szazynski lost to Shady Side Academy’s Adeel Piracha, 6-2, 6-1, in the semifinals. He beat Allderdice’s Ian Kuchera, 10-5, in the first round.

Duermeyer isn’t sure when the last Shaler player to advance to WPIALs was but knows the drought extends long beyond his tenure. Szazynski, who started playing tennis as a sophomore, had shown flashes of potential during the past few seasons.

“I never questioned his drive or his ability,” Duermeyer said. “I knew it would be hard because he had to beat the No. 2 seed.”

Szazynski trailed 5-4 against Friday before he took control of the match. He was able to score two breaks late in the match to pull away.

“He did it with power,” Duermeyer said. “He outswung the Fox Chapel player. Most of the No. 1s we’ve had over the years, our strategy is to chip and charge. We don’t have a lot of kids who can play tennis from the baseline like Cam can.”

Szazynski’s play has Shaler on course for another milestone, as well. If the Titans can beat Central Catholic in their final section match, they will go to the WPIAL team playoffs for the first time in seven years.

Szazynski wants to keep pushing the envelope.

“I want to go to the next level,” Szazynski said. “It’s unlikely, but I’d like for everyone to see me on TV one day.”

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