Valley tennis team ready to defend the section 3 championship

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Monday, April 4, 2022 | 12:14


Snow showers and temperatures in their teens did not really mean the start of spring on the weekends, but the spring high school season is actually in full swing.

Valley’s boys’ tennis team has definitely come out with swinging the rackets to start the cool campaign.

The Vikings opened with a record of 2-0 in section 3-2A with 5-0 wins over Greensburg Salem and the Highlands.

It was a welcome sign for coach Rachael Link, whose team has some players in new roles and others breaking into the university lineup for the first time.

“We’re a young team. I have five guys playing in brand new positions, and honestly I’m overwhelmingly proud of how quickly it has adapted to their new roles,” Link said. “I attribute the opening success of our season to the commitment and passion that the boys train with six days a week. They perform hard exercises and ball placement strategies. It has been great to witness as their coach.”

Valley won the Section 3-2A title last season and earned the No. 3 seed for the playoffs. North Catholic, Highlands, Knoch and Indiana also qualified for the off-season.

The Vikings reached the WPIAL semifinals after defeating Greensburg Central Catholic and Thomas Jefferson. They then lost to South Park in the semifinals and North Catholic in the battle for third place for missing just by qualifying for the PIAA tournament.

Junior Nicholas Bussard was a WPIAL qualifier and reached the quarterfinals of the singles tournament. After losing his freshman season to the pandemic, Link said he learned a lot from clues and mistakes last season by playing the No. 1 single, and “navigated beautifully through intense competition.”

“Where Nicholas has evolved the most is that he has an arsenal of punches to use when competing, and his intelligence has grown tremendously,” she said. “He understands the importance of varying the speed and location of his strokes.

I attribute his success to his willingness to train outside of training and the fact that he has Dylan (Gentile), Dario (Wolfe) and Nate (Clarke) to train with. The biggest competition they face is during our training against each other. Nick is fit and hungry and is constantly evaluating and perfecting every aspect of his game. “

Trained Thomas Albert was also a WPIAL singles qualifier last season. Bussard and classmate Dylan Gentile teamed up to reach the WPIAL doubles tournament. Senior Dario Wolfe and Albert also qualified for the WPIAL doubles last season after finishing second in the section doubles draw. Bussard and Gentile finished third.

Bussard and Gentile spent last season playing singles and returning to the top of the ranks. Wolfe, who played first double last season, is No. 3 in singles.

“He joined the tennis team from our baseball team last year literally on the official first training day,” Link said of Wolfe. “His development as a player is incredible; he is currently being recruited for collegiate tennis. “

Senior Clarke and junior newcomer Ethan Harcelrode have teamed up in the first double, and junior Zachary Doran and freshman Landon Harcelrode make up the second double pairing.

“With four guys in new positions, I rely heavily on Nate Clarke and Dario Wolfe, who are our captains, along with Dylan and Nick,” Link said. “They set the tone for our practice. The togetherness and camaraderie between them has lifted and inspired the whole team to train with passion.

“Really, what brings me the most joy is that the boys really love playing tennis together. They gather outside of training time to hit and supplement their games.”

On March 21, Valley won a 5-0 victory over the Highlands as Bussard, Gentile and Wolfe won straight-set victories in singles. In doubles, Ethan Harcelrode and Clarke teamed up for a 6-1, 6-2 victory, and Doran and Landon Harcelrode rolled to a 6-0, 6-0 victory in the second double.

“I attribute my team’s opening success because of the pure love my boys have for the sport, and honestly, victories aside, there is nothing else that matters to me,” Link said.

“I want my players to learn the whims of this lifelong sport and continue to play throughout their life journey.”

Valley will compete in Section 3-2A with Burrell, Highlands, Indiana, Knoch, North Catholic, St. Joseph and Springdale. Quaker Valley is the defending WPIAL champion.

“North Catholic will be the team to be in my section as well as the entire Class 2A WPIAL,” Link said. “Nick Scheller, the second nationally ranked state, is back at No. 1. They return all starters except one. We beat Northern Catholics to win the division championship. They beat us in the semifinals; they are legal.”

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor for Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@triblive.com or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

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