When Peters Township and Fox Chapel played Monday, it had the potential to be a preview of the WPIAL Class 3A team tennis championship.
Though the two teams may yet take the court again for a rematch next week, their first go-round wasn’t quite the meeting that was expected.
“We won, 4-1, but they were missing a couple guys,” Peters Township coach Brandt Bowman said. “That definitely affected them.”
Fox Chapel played without both of its top two singles players, sophomore Robby Shymansky and freshman Milo Baron, which forced the team to revamp its entire lineup. Without a full squad, Peters Township came away with a 4-1 victory in the last regular-season match for both schools.
Even so, the Indians could be the favorite to end the reign of the defending champions.
“I feel good about them,” Bowman said. “We have five seniors in our starting lineup, we have a freshman playing at No. 1 singles who’s really tough and doesn’t look like a freshman. He’s just a beat out there.”
That freshman, Connor Bruce, has been dominant this season. He is the No. 4 freshman in the state — tops in the WPIAL — and could give Shymansky, the No. 1 sophomore in the state and a PIAA runner-up last season, a run for the WPIAL singles title.
“I was really looking forward to that match,” Bowman said. “It would have been really good.”
Though Peters Township has been a regular playoff participant, playing for a championship has eluded the program. The Indians have not played in the team finals since the sport split into two classifications in 1994 and have not been to the semifinals since they were the top seed and were upset by Mt. Lebanon in 2007. Peters Township won its only team tennis title in 1976, but this might finally be the year the Indians end their 41-year drought.
“These seniors, last year we had some goals to make states and we came up a little bit short. They’re pretty hungry for the playoffs this year,” Bowman said. “Adding Connor at No.1, that just makes our team that much stronger.”
Mt. Lebanon has been one of the most competitive schools in WPIAL Class 3A tennis for more than 60 years. The Blue Devils won their first title in 1956 and have been a force in the sport ever since.
That had not changed with the split to two classifications in 1994, even though they have only won two championships in that time. Over the past three years, they have played in one WPIAL championship match and qualified for the PIAA tournament every season.
This year, however, Mt. Lebanon will need all of its resources to make a return trip to Hershey Racquet Club May 19-20. The Blue Devils don’t have a dominant ace for a guaranteed win in singles and, overall, they finished third in their section behind Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.
Then again, it’s playoff time, which is when Mt. Lebanon seems to somehow put it all together.
“I think we’ve had some tough losses, but I think they’ve learned from these tough losses and they’re due for a tough win,” Mt. Lebanon coach Augie Garofoli said. “I think they’re getting better each match.”