East Xtra: Hempfield shows some spunk

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With the departure of three starters from the 2013 Hempfield Area tennis team that finished at the bottom of the Class AAA Section 1 standings, Spartans coach Jerry Way wasn't sure what to expect from this season's team.

But when Hempfield kicked off league play with a 3-2 victory against two-time defending section champion Penn-Trafford, Way thought his team may have a chance to make the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2009.

"I thought: 'Is this really happening?'" Way said. "I didn't know how good we would be, but I knew we would always compete."

At singles, Hempfield returned its No. 1 player, senior Matt Abraham, and No. 3 player, Keisuke Sakuma. Sakuma scored the lone singles win in the opening victory against Penn-Trafford.

The Spartans' No. 2 singles player from last season, Zach Iezzi, did not return, but Hempfield replaced him with Miguel Sesma, a foreign exchange student from Madrid, Spain.

Way hadn't been introduced to Sesma until the first day of practice.

"A teacher brought him out to the first day of practice and said he was going to play tennis for us, and I was like, 'OK,'" Way said.

"But he's been pretty good for us. He never really played competitive tennis before. He just hit with his dad. But he's so fast and he gets to anything. If he had stronger strokes, he'd be a very strong player."

At doubles, two seniors, Dane Leone and Dom Sackett, occupied the No. 1 position, while sophomore Luke Persin and senior Anthony Colosi saw the majority of time at No. 2 doubles. Persin is the only player in the starting lineup who will return to the team next season.

Two other seniors, Bailey Keilbach and Reno Scalzetti, also saw time in the starting lineup.

After the opening win against the Warriors, Hempfield beat every team in the middle and bottom of the section standings, but couldn't pull another victory against the upper-echelon teams in the league.

The Spartans dropped both matches against Greater Latrobe and Franklin Regional, the two teams that tied for the section championship.

Hempfield also lost the return match with Penn-Trafford, 4-1. Sakuma earned the lone win.

So the Spartans finished fourth in the section with a record of 9-5 and missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. But Way was still pleased with the season.

"As long as my guys compete well, that's all I can ask, and they did that each match," Way said. "All they can do is the best they can and see what happens and I think we did pretty well this season."


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