Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Knoch Tennis Team Facing a Major Reconstruction Project

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Knoch Tennis Team Facing a Major Reconstruction Project

Article excerpt

When Tom Gammell started the Knoch High School boys' tennis program eight years ago, he knew his Knights would take their lumps.

From the first serve, Knoch competed against schools with not only established lineups, but with talent rich in slicing backhands and deft drop shots.

"They put us in a tough section right off the bat with Butler and North Allegheny and we got beat up pretty good," he said. "The first six years, the program has gotten better each year. Then it leveled off a little bit.

"But we're in big trouble this year."

The Knights finished 8-10 last year, 4-8 in rugged Section 2-AAA with Shady Side Academy, which has won the WPIAL Class AAA team championship two of the past three years and a PIAA title in 2003. The Indians, Gammell said, were in a league of their own.

"We have three courts and no assistants and they have 12 courts and 70 kids come out. It's impossible to try to compete with that. One of their parents said last year the team went to Hilton Head to play. We're up here trying to shovel off the snow so we can maybe hit a ball around."

The Knights have dodged the overhead smash of the Indians this year by dropping in classification. Though Knoch is now competing in Section 3-AA with teams such as Sewickley Academy, Quaker Valley and Mars Area, Gammell isn't all that excited about the prospects of any team success.

"Last year we were 8-10 and we lost six kids, five were starters," he said. "We have three kids back from last year, and we had a whole gang of kids sign up this year. In years past, we might have been able to compete with some of these teams. Not this year.

"We don't have a lot of talent. The kids I have playing singles all played doubles last year. Basically, all the other kids are just learning."

Helping to mold the crop of eight freshmen on the roster is junior Evan Shaffer. …

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