No Rest, No Problem for Will Siegel

Will Siegel couldn’t start tennis practice with the rest of the team this season, and for good reason: The talented star basketball player was in the midst of leading his basketball team to the PIAA tournament. However, after a disappointing loss in the second round that ended the season, the first-team all-section player switched gears quickly. The next day, Will dusted off his tennis racquet after not playing for the better part of the year, walked across the road from the gymnasium – where he’d put his heart and soul into basketball for the past four years – and stepped onto the tennis courts as the team’s returning top singles player.

What happened next was remarkable – in between bouts of bad weather and with only a few weeks of practice, Will won the WPIAL Class 3A Section 3 singles title.

Coach Alex Slezak says that in his nearly 15 years of coaching boys’ and girls’ teams, he has never had a multisport athlete win a singles championship.

“I’ve never seen this before,” says the coach, who cites Will’s athleticism, competitiveness, and enduring spirit as factors in his success. “The players who win these titles are usually serious year-round players who enter a lot of tournaments.”

Will adds, “I played athletically is the best way I can say it. I am still a little rusty from missing so much time, but I used the ability of being able to be quicker and in better shape than my opponents.”

The switch from being a team player to having the solo spotlight is a mental adjustment, but Will makes that transition pretty easily. In fact, he says he loves the way that tennis teaches mental fortitude. He used that knowledge and what he has learned about himself as an athlete over the years to give him the confidence to win the section title in tennis.

“The mindset is so different (from basketball),” says Will, who comes from a tennis family and started playing when he was six years old.  “You are playing by yourself and have nobody to lean on except yourself. In basketball, I could have a bad game and we could still maybe win. But in tennis, it’s all on me every single match. There are 100% nerves when playing in the spotlight, but by this point, I am built for big moments, and it is nothing I am scared of.

“This is the first thing I really feel like I have won by myself with the tennis team. When I play number one, I have to play so many kids who just play tennis, all year round and I end up losing when other kids on my team win. This time, I feel like I proved to myself that I am able to get the job done.”

The uniqueness of his situation is not lost on him. Will says, “It is an honor to be a first-team all-section player in basketball and win the section singles in tennis. I feel that it is a great way for me to end my high school career knowing that after all the hard work I have put in, I did get something out of it.”

Next up are the WPIAL singles playoffs on April 9 at Bethel Park High School, where the section singles champ will face Josh Kim of North Hills. He knows what he will be up against.

“The competition will be very difficult,” says Will. “I feel prepared at this point and think it is safe to say that we will give every team a good match.”