Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pine-Richland Players Step Up in Redone Lineup

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pine-Richland Players Step Up in Redone Lineup

Article excerpt

The Pine-Richland boys tennis team can't just "Bas" around its Section 2-AAA rivals anymore, but the Rams still have the talent to fulfil their postseason aspirations.

Pine-Richland lost Bas Van Lent to graduation after Van Lent was a WPIAL Class AAA singles tournament finalist last season. They also had to replace three other players who had starting experience, leading to a domino effect of individuals playing higher in the lineup.

"I'd say we have a lot of depth this year," second singles player Brett O'Donnell said. "We don't have a singles player as strong as Bas was, but we've all stepped up and shown great depth.

"Everybody's had to adjust, but [Ji-Ho Park] has stepped up playing [first singles]. I'm getting more comfortable at '2' singles, and then we have Brian Beck at '3,' who is, thus far, unbeaten on the season."

Park, a senior, was a section singles tournament semifinalist last season and will compete in the section tournament beginning today at North Allegheny High School. He has taken over the role as Pine-Richland's top singles player this season, facing opponents' No. 1 players on a match-by-match basis.

"Ji-Ho is a very strong player," O'Donnell said. "He likes to go for his shots, and he has the ability to beat very good players when he does that. When he's hitting his shots, he can really be a force to be reckoned with."

Park likely could have played college tennis, but he said his priority on academics will probably end up with him attending Duke University.

O'Donnell literally "grew" into his role as Pine-Richland's second singles player. He was at third singles last season but grew in stature the past year. That's helped him with his power, the angle on his serve and while he's at the net.

"He's a vastly improved player," Rams coach Janet Chappell said. "He's doing really well. I'm very pleased with his progress.

"He can do things he couldn't do before because of his height. He can cover more court, that type of thing, whip the racket better. Everything's better because of it."

Beck has been starting since his freshman season, but this is his first season playing primarily singles. …

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