Saturday, December 18, 2021, TRIB-LIVE
Fox Chapel’s swimming teams got their seasons off on the right track, but coaches and swimmers are hoping that it’s only the start of bigger things to come.
The girls defeated local rival Shady Side Academy, 98-75, while the boys took care of the Bulldogs, 102-71, at the home pool.
Hoping for a third consecutive state title is junior Sophie Shao, who performs in the 100 butterfly and has attained All-American status. She is one reason why expectations are so high, particularly with the girls.
Fox Chapel’s boys and girls both won section titles in the same season for the first time last year — the boys copping section honors for the first time since 1991.
Returnees for the girls include Rei Sperry and Ariana Pasquella. Talia Bugel, a junior, is the defending WPIAL champion in the 100 backstroke. In the 50 freestyle, she was sixth in the WPIAL as a freshman and placed third last year.
Depth is a strength for a squad that is looking for contributions from junior Payton O’ Toole and freshmen Grace Kovach, Sarah Pasquella, Margaret Rusche and Rayna Huang.
The girls are pushing for the WPIAL team title.
“If there’s ever a year to contend and fully embrace the challenge, it’s now,” coach Dan Taylor said. “We’ve never finished higher than third and last won the WPIAL title in 1995, so it’s been a while.”
Diving coach Vernon Yenick is very high on the impact of freshmen divers.
The top three in the girls category are Ainsley Anderson, Noelle Dick and Ellie Dering.
For the boys, leading the way will be Jackson Hagler. Josh Gunzenhauser and Caleb Adams.
“This is the best team of divers I’ve had in 13 years,” Yenick said. “All these freshmen have enormous depths of talent, all have great attitudes, they’re not afraid to try new dives, and they support each other.”
Last year’s PIAA diving champion David Manelis has graduated.
Taylor expects plenty of scoring from seniors Nathaniel Ross and Holden Smith, along with junior Adi Pattada.
“We also have two sophomores, Henry Koloc in the breaststroke and individual medley and Pete Manelis, David’s brother, in the breaststroke and backstroke,” Taylor said.
One of the more versatile swimmers is freshman Christian Dantey, who will perform in the 100 butterfly, the 100 breaststroke, the IM and the freestyle.
“We’re also expecting a big contribution from Emmanuel Drappatz, a sprinter in the 50 freestyle,” said Taylor, the eighth-year coach.