After the cold start, the Hampton boys tennis team warming up

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Saturday, April 16, 2022 | It was 10:01 AM


Hampton boys tennis coach Grant McKinney took a long shot at a wintry Monday outside Peeked.

“It was really cold, and it was snowing,” McKinney said. “I texted the guys and said, ‘We may not have a chance to practice.’ Both Ethen and the assistant captain got back and said, ‘No. We want to practice. ‘”

Spurred by senior captain Ethen Oh and sophomore Hayden List, the Talbots braved the elements for the March 28 workout in the mid-20s.

“It was so cold and so windy,” McKinney said. “But they started playing this game and Ethan got really into it and started cheering on all the guys. We have a really energetic practice. I don’t know how helpful it was in terms of skill development, but it was one of those neat team moments. ”

Oh, the lone senior on the roster, is having a neat final season. The Talbots’ No. 1 singles player, who survived a pair of close-ups at the Section 4-AA singles tournament April 6 in advance of the WPIAL Championships.

Seeded No. 4, Oh Escape with an 11-9 win over No. 13 seed Brandon Boxendell of McGuffey in the first round and then edged no. 5 Lukas Prepelka of Carlynton, 10-7, in the quarterfinals to clinch a top-four finish and secure a berth to the WPIAL Championships.

“That was super fun,” said Oh, who lost to Quaker Valley’s Mike Sirianni, 6-1, 6-1 in the section semifinals. “My first match and my second match were both very close. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s just super gratifying to go at least (to WPIALs) once in my high school career. ”

Oh, seeded no. 13, fell to No. 4 Josh Dunham of Mars, 10-1, in the first round of the 16-man WPIAL Class 2A singles tournament April 12 at North Allegheny.

“I’m just really pleased for him,” McKinney said. “He waited for a couple years (to reach WPIALs) and really wanted it.”

Oh, a member of Hampton’s two-time WPIAL Class 2A swimming championship team that has helped lead the young Talbots to the playoffs. Hampton entered the week of April 11 with one more section win, clinch a WPIAL postseason berth for the second consecutive year, fielding a varsity roster comprised of one senior, five sophomores and a freshman.

Sophomore Vitaliy Pikalo, who reached the section singles quarterfinals, is playing No. 2 singles and sophomore Ben LaRusse, who missed a season with a shoulder injury, is at No. 3 singles. List and sophomore Matthew Mason form the no. 1 doubles team, and sophomore Justin Rothenberg and freshman JJ Edwards hold down. 2 doubles.

The top alternates are junior Luke Proviano and sophomore Brandon Pascucci.

“I think we are doing well,” said Oh, who will attend Carnegie Mellon. “We’re definitely playing well.

“I think all our players are ready and very determined to go out and win and fight. I feel very confident in our abilities. ”

Pikalo has been one of the top Talbots for their own 5-0 victories over Keystone Oaks, McGuffey and Seton-LaSalle in their new-look section. Pikalo played junior varsity as a freshman before a strong summer catapulted him to No. 2 singles spot.

“He’s better at getting to the summer and offseason than he was at the number of hours he worked,” said McKinney, in his 13th season. “Pretty much anytime you went out to the courts, he was there.”

The Talbots, meanwhile, found a new spot in themselves.

Last fall, they moved from Section 3-2A, consisting of mainly Northern suburb schools, into a geographically spread-out section that includes a 48-mile trip to McGuffey, about 11 miles from the West Virginia border. The WPIAL made the move because a number of teams were unbalanced and there were questions about whether Washington would be able to field a boys team.

“It’s very strange,” McKinney said. “The sections just didn’t line up. I never got an explanation. So I guess the WPIAL made the decision that they needed to move to the Balance Out of Sections section. Next year we will be moving yet again. It’s a bit odd. ”

Said Oh, “It’s always challenging to move into a new section. It’s an unknown. It’s kind of weird going into the section just because it’s anything new. It’s fun though. The only bad part is that we’ve got the long bus ride to the races. ”

Aside from some long road trips, the Talbots are also playing a demanding nonsection schedule that includes Class 3A programs Peters Township, Franklin Regional, Upper St. Clair and Chartiers Valley.

“It gives us an idea of ​​what a really good team looks like,” McKinney said. “I think that’s helpful for my team, especially these young players.”

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