Peters Township junior Mitch Kreider didn't have high expectations for his team this season after seven seniors graduated from last year's team, including No. 2 singles player Matt Subosits and No. 1 doubles player Dan Keyter.
But with Kreider at the top and big contributions from a few underclassmen, the Indians are the favorite to repeat as Class AAA Section 5 champions.
"We lost a lot of great seniors and replaced them with a lot of younger guys," he said. "I didn't have the highest expectations, but we only lost to Mt. Lebanon so far. We're doing really well."
Kreider is the key. His only loss in team play came against the Blue Devils, falling to Peter Hazlett. Kreider's other defeat came in the quarterfinals of the WPIAL Class AAA singles tournament Monday to Pine-Richland's Caleb Kramer, 10-7.
Last week, he won his second consecutive section singles title.
"I think he's improved since last year," Peters Township coach Brandt Bowman said. "He plays very aggressively, goes to the net and has a good forehand. He's also tall, and because of that has a good serve."
Kreider said his serve is his best weapon. He didn't lose a point on his serve during the section tournament, and recorded 10 aces in the final.
"I really improved my power and also my diversity," Kreider said.
Kreider's 10 aces came against his teammate, Brendan Dollard, who finished second in his first section singles title. Because of his high finish, the Indians freshman No. 2 singles player advanced to his first WPIAL tournament this week as well.
"[Dollard] has a pretty good forehand and he'll stay out there forever and battle," Bowman said. "He's not afraid to just battle out there for two-and-a-half hours."
Dollard is one of two freshmen in Peters Township's lineup, along with No. 2 doubles player Sam Marx. The Indians also have a sophomore, Zenas Zhuang, seeing his first action at the varsity level this season at No. 1 doubles.
The Indians have returning starters in seniors Jake Floyd at No. 3 singles and Connor Daley at No. 1 doubles.
Bowman said with the improvement of the returning starters and the young guns stepping in, this season's team could be better than the one that won the section title and lost in the first round of the WPIAL team tournament last season.
"Maybe we're a little better," Bowman said. "Our goal this season is to win the section again and go a little further in the playoffs this season."