Underdog Gateway, top-seeded Sewickley Academy win WPIAL team tennis titles

Wednesday, May 10, 2023 | 9:04 PM

Gateway’s first WPIAL team tennis championship in 35 years sparked a merry post-match celebration Wednesday on the lower courts at Washington & Jefferson’s Janet L. Swanson Tennis Center.

Players, coaches and fans mingled amid a chaotic chatter.

“I’m so excited,” Gateway coach Emily Levine shouted. “Hey, ‘Let’s Go, Gators,’ right? Gator Country.”

No. 3 Gateway, which captured its only other team title in 1988, won all three singles matches to clinch a 3-2 victory over No. 1 North Allegheny in the Class 3A final.

No. 1 Sewickley Academy defeated No. 6 Winchester Thurston, 4-1, in Class 2A.

All four teams, plus the Nos. 3 and 4 finishers in Class 2A, advance to the PIAA championships on Tuesday.

“It feels unreal. Hopefully, we can win more,” said Gateway sophomore Adam Memije, the Gators’ No. 1 singles player. His 6-3, 6-0 victory over NA’s Shaun Fernando avenged a loss to Fernando in the WPIAL singles tournament.

Fernando had arrived late for the team tournament, staying behind temporarily to complete an Advanced Placement exam, but the wait, Memije said, didn’t bother him.

“I just stayed calm and kept my focus. I wasn’t worried about it,” he said.

No. 2 Zidaan Hassan and No. 3 Logan Memije also won their matches for Gateway. Hassan defeated Manas Kathir, 6-4, 6-4, and Memije took care of Evan Kaufman, 6-1, 6-2.

“They played incredibly sharp,” North Allegheny coach Dominic Gliozzi said of the Gateway singles trio. “Hats off to them. They played high-stakes tennis against the one seed. They also knew how to play high-stakes tennis against the one seed. It speaks very, very well of their kids and their maturity.”

Levine wasn’t surprised by the outcome but did call it “a very competitive match.” She called the victory “an exciting moment for the entire athletic department.

“It’s just a wonderful thing for them to bring this trophy to Gateway,” she said.

Sewickley Academy, returning to Class 2A after four years in 3A, took up a familiar role as among the favorites and went on to its 24th WPIAL team title.

“It’s really special, just considering it’s my senior year,” said Jonathan Varghese, one of three in Sewickley Academy’s lineup. All three, including doubles players Spencer Krysinski and Alexander Quigley, prevailed against their Winchester Thurston opponents.

Varghese, at No. 2 singles, defeated Christian Zhu, 6-3, 6-2, while Krysinski and junior Jackson Quigley defeated Nikou Nourhkhsh and Alex Hauskrecht, 6-4, 6-1. Alexander Quigley and sophomore Jason Chen won 6-2, 6-1, at second doubles.

Sewickley Academy’s Sebastian Tan beat Oliver Daboo, 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4, at third singles.

Winchester Thurston freshman Austin He, the Bears’ No. 1 singles player, won easily over Sewickley Academy’s Severin Harmon, 6-2, 6-1.

Nonetheless, Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder was delighted with the outcome and praised his team’s determination.

“I’m proud of our boys for persevering the last couple of days, embracing the opportunity and having a chance to play for a championship,” he said. “Especially the seniors, who all won their matches today. These kids have been playing in Triple-A for the last four years, so none of them — including the seniors — have been in a situation where they were in a WPIAL championship. I think it was new and exciting for all of them.”

Sewickley Academy dominated throughout the tournament, blanking both No. 8 Hampton and No. 5 North Catholic, 5-0, to reach the final.

Winchester Thurston snuck into the final as the sixth seed with the help of a 5-0 upset of No. 3 South Park in the quarterfinals.

“It’s an honor to get this far,” Winchester Thurston coach Joe Camillo said.

The Bears were making their first appearance in a WPIAL team final.

“The team itself, it’s very gritty, very gutty,” Camillo said. “I’m just really proud of them. It means so much to the program. It really makes everybody understand that we’re for real and we plan on being here again and next time winning it.”

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