Recognize Greater Pittsburgh

Updated: March 26, 2009, 4:36 PM ET
ESPN RISE Magazine

Boys' Tennis - Upper St. Clair

After five WPIAL Class AAA titles and four trips to the PIAA Class AAA state final, coach Ron Mercer's squad was getting pretty tired of coming so far and falling short. "Last year we just went in really relaxed," Mercer says. "We worked hard to advance to the finals, and after that we were just winging it." The strategy worked  the Panthers earned the state title, beating Lower Merion, 3-2. There is pressure to continue the district title streak, and that's just the way Mercer likes it. "Everyone is gunning for us," he says. "Once you lose that fear, that's when the other teams get you."Depth is always the key for the Panthers, and this year's squad has plenty of it. Senior Jay Jones, whose season at No. 1 singles will be his third for Upper St. Clair, finished second in the WPIAL tournament last year. "He's trying to play a little like (Andre) Agassi," Mercer says. "He's really aggressive. He practices really hard in the offseason." Senior Nick Navarre, a lefty doubles specialist, has what Mercer calls "doubles instinct." He added, "You have to have good teamwork with your partner. He sees certain angles and openings." Juniors Harris Tucker and Ryan Pearson can play both singles and doubles. Sophomore Batu Otkeren and junior Ben Friedlander are both powerful developing players. Junior Ethan Kallick, one of the district's best last year, will miss this season while at a tennis camp in Florida.

Girls' Track - Quaker Valley

The Quakers won the WPIAL Class AA championship last year with a balance of youth, talent and experience. While some of the players who were so important to last year's team have since graduated, a number of athletes who contributed last season were freshmen who only have room to grow moving forward. Junior hurdler and jumper Tabitha Bemis and senior thrower Danielle Lindsay are the team's leaders. Look for sophomores Mica Rollock and Chelsea Kosanovich to contribute in middle distances.

Boys' Track - Mars

Though Riverside ran away with the WPIAL Class AA title last year, Mars may be the team best suited to make a run of its own this season. Junior Vinny Smith, who was fifth in the 110 hurdles last year, is the team's best hope for big points. The Planets have a deep roster, loaded with talented relay runners. Senior athletes such as Jeff Conley in the 300 hurdles, Nick Edinger and Jake Montag in the 3,200 and junior Shane Kaclik in the high jump should have breakout seasons.

Softball - Mt. Lebanon

The WPIAL Class AAAA semifinalists brought a young but talented team to the district tournament bracket and managed to put together a very strong performance. In fact, eventual champ Latrobe needed a no-hitter to top the Blue Devils. Junior pitcher Geena Badolato, last year's ace, will be the key to the team's success this year. Badolato, sophomore shortstop Tess Apke and junior outfielder Alexa Hagenbrock all earned All-Section honors from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


BOYS' LACROSSE  BETHEL PARK Senior Tyler Henk is among the best goalies in the WPIAL this year. GIRLS' LACROSSE  FRANKLIN REGIONAL Look for senior attacker Kayla Platt to lead one of the deepest teams in the area. BASEBALL  MOON Senior shortstop and pitcher Phil Bondi hopes to bring the Tigers back to the WPIAL semis. SOFTBALL  MOHAWK Junior infielder Kelly Fox and senior pitcher Chelsea Brown lead the Warriors.