South Xtra: Sophomore's decision to switch sports boosts Upper St. Clair

HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS


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Last summer, Fernando Escribens made a decision that has transformed Upper St. Clair from a good tennis team to a WPIAL title contender.

Escribens played baseball last spring for Upper St. Clair, and would play competitive tennis on the weekends in USTA tournaments.

He continued to play baseball during the summer, at which point he had an epiphany.

"I came to the realization that I was significantly better at tennis than baseball," Escribens said.

So he began focusing on working on his game on the court instead of the diamond and went out for the Panthers' team this spring.

He not only is starting, but has elevated himself to the top spot in the team's lineup.

"Fernando really changed our whole team," Upper St. Clair coach Ron Mercer said. "He moved everyone down a spot and made us that much better."

Escribens showed he is not only the best player on the Panthers, but also one of the best in the WPIAL.

Seeded sixth at the WPIAL Class AAA singles tournament, this Panthers sophomore defeated Shady Side's Eric Grubbs in the first round. Escribens had never beaten Grubbs prior to their district tournament match on April 15.

But Escribens got over the hump with a 10-4 pro-set victory.

"We had played several times at USTA tournaments and it was always close, but he always seemed to beat me in three sets," Escribens said. "It was nice to get that off my back."

The win against Grubbs set up a quarterfinal match the same day against No. 3 seed Kevin Goth of North Allegheny, another player Escribens had never beaten.

But just like Grubbs, Goth fell to Escribens, 10-7. Escribens would then lose his last two matches to Mt. Lebanon's Peter Hazlett in the semifinals and Pine-Richland's Caleb Kramer in a consolation match to finish fourth.

He added another top four finish this week at the WPIAL Class AAA doubles tournament with teammate Christian Meyer. They defeated North Allegheny's Goth and Tomas Monti in the third-place consolation match Tuesday.

Mercer believes Escribens will only continue to improve as he plays more and more tennis.

"He just recently started playing tennis more and every single match he improves a lot," Mercer said.

That is scary for the other teams in the WPIAL. Because not only will teams have to deal with Escribens for two more years, but USC's No. 2 and No. 3 players, Dominick D'Amico and Meyer, are both just sophomores as well.

The Panthers are already WPIAL Class AAA team title contenders this year, having only lost to Mt. Lebanon this season.

"If we can win this year, we can get on quite a roll," Mercer said.

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