There are only two unbeaten teams in the WPIAL entering the playoffs and both are in WPIAL Class AA where No. 1 Beaver Area (13-0) and No. 2 Deer Lakes (15-0) enter the playoffs with perfect records. The decision to give the Bobcats the No. 1 seed was a big deal considering they are the only team in the field to receive a first-round bye. Deer Lakes will have to play No. 15 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart while the Bobcats get a pass to the WPIAL quarterfinals where they will play the winner of No. 8 Burrell and No. 9 Steel Valley.
Name: Ruthe Neeley
School: Beaver Area
Events: 200, 400, 800, 400 relay and 1,600 relay
Background Info: Neeley is the reigning WPIAL Class AA champion in the 400 and ran on the winning 400 relay team. She is currently slated in the No. 1 spot on Jim Faiella's Honor Roll list with a time of 57.1 seconds in the 400.
Last season, Beaver Area won the WPIAL Class AA Championship and reached the PIAA title game but almost that entire team graduated. With just a few veterans returning, the inexperience showed early as the Bobcats lost five of their first six games.
At that point, only the most die-hard of Beaver fans were talking about the playoffs as the Bobcats lost their fourth game by three touchdowns at home – 21-0 to Ellwood City – and then lost to Riverside 12-4. That bandwagon is starting to get crowded now as the Bobcats haven't lost since. Now 6-4 in Section 5-AA play, Beaver is in control of a playoff spot.
In the five-game surge, Beaver has scored 62 runs and two of the wins have come against Shenango, the team chasing Beaver in the standings, giving the Bobcats a key tie-breaker. In its last win, a 5-2 game at Shenango that moved the Bobcats into the drivers' seat, senior Jake Hannan pitched a complete game and Mike Valent had the big hit. Last year, both learned by watching.
Behind section singles champion Connor Shallcross, the senior-laden Beaver boys tennis team finished second in Class AA Section 2 last season and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals.
Beaver lost five starters from that team, including Shallcross, but the team is in the same position this season — second behind Blackhawk.
The team’s two returning starters, sophomores Jon Tetrick and Devin Dikec, are playing in the top two singles players. They started at No. 2 doubles last year.
Ryan Riordan profiles the Beaver boys tennis team.
"The Beaver Area boys tennis team has advanced to the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals each of the past four seasons.
But with six of its top nine players, including all of its top five, having graduated after last season, the Bobcats were expected to take a step back this season.
Yet, as the regular season proceeds, Beaver is once again cruising along with just one loss on its resume entering this week.
"I've been pleasantly surprised," Beaver coach Riley Baker said. "You lose the quality of players we had last year and you think you may not be as successful. But we're doing quite well.""