North Xtra: For Pine-Richland it's about maturing

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Pine-Richland's "young guns" are coming of age on the court.

When Pine-Richland faced North Allegheny for the first time this season, Ben Vinarski was in just the third match of his high school tennis career.

But when the two teams faced off a few weeks later, Vinarski was more experienced, having gone through a few more dual meets and the section singles tournament.

The difference was a victory for the Rams.

Vinarski avenged the earlier loss to Jared Isaacs to beat his North Allegheny sophomore opponent in straight sets to reverse the 3-2 loss on March 20 into a 3-2 win for the Rams on April 2.

"He's been a very good player for a long time," Pine-Richland coach Janet Chappell said. "But he's just in ninth grade, so people are only finding out about him now."

Vinarski is one of three freshmen in Pine-Richland's starting lineup, along with No. 3 singles player Sid Iyer and No. 2 doubles player Jonah Krause. Iyer has yet to lose a match in team play this season.

Chappell said she has seen the freshmen continue to gain confidence as the season progresses, which in turn has turned the Rams into a more formidable opponent.

"They're more relaxed now," Chappell said. "It's a lot different playing team tennis as opposed to tournaments. None of them had ever been on a team before. They were nervous at the start. They've come along."

It helps the young Rams that they have a quality leader in Caleb Kramer.

Kramer is the Rams' No. 1 player for the second consecutive season.

Last season, he placed third in the WPIAL Class AAA singles tournament, and this season he won his first section singles championship, beating Vinarski in the championship match.

Just as important as his play on the court, though, has been the way he's helped the freshmen come along.

"Caleb is an awesome leader," Chappell said. "He takes care of the young guys. I don't know if we've ever had a better leader. He's done very well in both practices and matches just talking to them."

With Kramer capable of beating most team's No. 1 players, and two young emerging singles players behind him, the Rams are capable of making a run at a state tournament berth.

Chappell would like to see her team make it to at least the WPIAL semifinals, but she said only time will tell how far these Rams will go.

"It'd be nice if we made the final four," Chappell said. "And if you make it that far, you never know.

"We have three really good singles players, so if we're playing really well, we could beat anyone. But we'll just have to see. It depends on our young guys."

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