North Xtra: Quaker Valley tennis coach thriving in return
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Talk about having a run of success ...
Jeff Sebastian took over the girls tennis program at Quaker Valley in 2004 and during the next seven seasons with him at helm, the Quakers won five WPIAL Class AA championships, including winning the title in each of his first four seasons.
But a PIAA title has eluded Sebastian and the Quakers. Three times Quaker Valley reached the state final (2006, '07 and '09) and three times the Quakers fell to eastern power Harriton.
"I still lose sleep over it," Sebastian said.
In 2010, Harriton once again eliminated the Quakers at the PIAA tournament, this time in the semis. Harriton went on to win its seventh consecutive PIAA Class AA title that year.
Meanwhile, Sebastian was burned out. He said it wasn't so much the tough losses at states but the physical toll the years of coaching had taken on him that made him decide to step away after the 2010 season.
"I just felt like it was time," Sebastian said. "I'm a teacher at Quaker Valley, so I'm at school teaching for eight or nine hours and then I go to practice and I'm there for another three or four hours. Those 12-13 hour days were really grinding on me. So it wasn't the losing, so to speak. I just thought it was time to walk away."
After stepping down, Sebastian didn't anticipate coming back. The Quakers hired Trent Goerk as head coach and he led them to a WPIAL runner-up finish and a PIAA quarterfinal appearance.
But Goerk resigned after the season, so once again the school had to look for a new tennis coach. Quaker Valley athletic director Mike Mastroianni posted the job online in January, but his first choice was Sebastian.
"Foremost, he's an excellent teacher for us and he's able to transfer those skills to coaching," Mastroianni said. "He has a great rapport with the team and we were hoping we could get someone of his caliber to come back and coach for us."
Sebastian, however, wasn't sure at first whether he wanted to come back. He took almost two months thinking about it, going back and forth on the decision. But ultimately, some of the girls who he had coached in 2010 who were still on the team and their parents convinced him to return.
"I didn't want to give them the answer they wanted unless it was also the answer I wanted," Sebastian said. "There's such a great tradition at the program, it really drives itself. I just try not to screw it up.
"It's a real serious endeavor and if I couldn't match the energy needed to do the job, then I wasn't going to come back. But I started to hear from the girls and their parents and I wanted to see if I could rekindle that fire."
Two of the players who were around when Sebastian previously coached Quaker Valley, Spencer Caravaggio and Samantha Richman, are now seniors. The two were Quaker Valley's No. 1 and No. 2 singles players in 2010 and remain in those positions now.
Caravaggio won the WPIAL Class AA singles championship the last time Sebastian coached in 2010, and then won it again this season. She also finished third in the WPIAL tournament in 2009 and 2011 and took second in the PIAA Class AA singles tournament in 2010. Richman took fourth at the WPIAL singles tournament as a sophomore in 2010.
"To have Spencer and Samantha still here, I thought it would be nice to be there to put a period on the end of this chapter," Sebastian said.
Quaker Valley was given the No. 2 seed at this week's WPIAL Class AA tournament. They defeated Keystone Oaks, 5-0, in a first-round match on Tuesday and were scheduled to play The Ellis School Weddnesday in thequarterfinals.
The Quakers lost to just one Class AA team during the regular season, a 3-2 defeat to No. 1 Sewickley in the regular-season finale. The Quakers defeated Sewickley, 4-1, earlier in the year.
The team's only other losses during the regular season were to Class AAA playoff teams such as Pine-Richland and Fox Chapel.
First Published October 18, 2012 12:00 am