Angie Garofoli’s 13th season as head coach of the Mt. Lebanon boys tennis team was anything but unlucky.

The Blue Devils captured a section championship with an undefeated record of 7-0. They also reached the final four in the WPIAL Class AAA team tournament for the second year in a row.

Lebo finished 14-2 overall after falling to Fox Chapel, 3-2, in a semifinal match played May 9 at North Allegheny High School.

“Obviously disappointed in the loss but never disappointed in the effort” said Garofoli . “This team always showed heart.”

The Blue Devils returned a strong core of players that reached the semifinals in 2021. So Garofoli knew they would contend for a championship.

“I really thought our team had a shot at winning,” he admitted.

The Foxes though had other plans. Seeded No. 6 in the tournament, they tripped up No. 3 seeded North Allegheny before knocking off the No. 2 Blue Devils. Lebo had opened team tournament action with home victories against Penn-Trafford, 5-0, and Sewickley Academy, 4-1.

“Technically you could call Fox Chapel’s win an upset because NA is hard to beat and had some tough players that gave them a great 1-2 punch, but after that it drops off and teams can be competitive with them after that.

“Fox Chapel proved to be a worthy opponent,” Garofoli continued. “We felt we had five lines that could be very competitive with them. We knew what to expect. We just did not execute. Our hats are off to them. They played well.”

As they have all season, the Wilke twins and Philip Gorun excelled in the No. 1 slots for the Blue Devils in doubles and singles play. They won their matches against the Foxes in straight sets.

For the past two years, Jack and Luke Wilke have dominated the doubles scene. They were two-time WPIAL semifinalists, placing third and fourth in 2021 and 2022. They were section champions as well. Other than a dual-match loss to Franklin Regional’s duo of Andrew and Aaron Allen, the senior pair were undefeated during the regular season.

Jack will continue his education at the University of Delaware while Luke is off to Miami (Ohio) University upon graduation.

“You want guys like them on a team because they are very positive and great leaders. People follow their lead and feed off their example,” Garofoli said.

“In tennis we can get caught up in our own matches and they want to win but they are also compassionate with everyone even in a loss. I can’t thank them enough for four great years. They will be sorely missed.”

Gorun will graduate as well. The senior plans to play at John Carroll. He was the section runner-up and a WPIAL singles contender.

“Phil’s right there,” Garofoli said. “He’s been great. He picked up his game when we really needed him. He’s had some tough losses but he’s always played strong.”

Lebo featured two additional seniors in its starting line-up.

Jonah Baram started the 2022 campaign at No. 3 singles before winning a challenge match. He ended up moving up to the No. 2 spot for the postseason.

Cole Descalzi, who will study at Notre Dame, combined with Nolan McGill, a junior, at No. 2 doubles.

“Jonah battled. He’d figure opponents out and ended up being in every match. His win-loss record doesn’t indicate the close matches that he play in. He was rock solid.

“Cole is an unbelievably intelligent guy and that helps him on the court,” Garofoli added. “He was a leader that showed good emotion on the court. He wants to win.”

The Blue Devils will continue to win long into the future because of Paul Gorun and Nolan McGill.

A sophomore, Gorun held down the No. 3 singles slot.

“It’s not easy to play as a sophomore when your match is the deciding one,” Garofoli said of the key position. “Paul’s a battler. He was always poised and cool. He’s also passionate. He’s a person who wants to improve and get better and he will.”

A junior, McGill combined with Descalzi at No. 2 doubles. McGill has a shot to be one of the team’s top singles players next spring.

“Nolan is a great person. He listen well and he’s focused,” Garofoli said.

Seniors Reid Mackey, Jackson Nolan and Scott Jones along with juniors Rushil Kakkad and Joe Summers concentrated on advancing the team’s goals and solidifying the program.

“We had guys that could start for other teams. That’s how good we were. But they worked hard all season to make us a better team.

“I told the guys that even though we lost (in the semifinals) I am going to be disappointed to see the seniors go because they made us a special team. They were very unselfish.

“It’s not easy to sit and watch matches but we were blessed to have guys that didn’t complain and wanted a challenge. We are going to miss them as leaders and as role models too. They all were team players.”

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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