North Allegheny’s Huang relishes upset victories at PIAA tennis

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Thursday, November 9, 2017 | 11:00 PM


North Allegheny junior Ashley Huang surprised a lot of people, including herself, by earning the PIAA Class AAA girls tennis singles title Nov. 3-4 in Hershey.

“No one really talked about me, so I didn't really feel any pressure going in,” she said. “I knew I was capable of doing well.

“I just told myself to go out there and play my best and see what happens.”

Huang, who finished third in the WPIAL, had a tough path.

She upset Norwin senior Maria Santilli — the defending champion and two-time reigning WPIAL champion — in the semifinals. In the final, she went the distance against District 12 champion Eliza Askarova, last year's PIAA runner-up.

“After coming back from one set down and saving two match points in the second set against Maria, and then being able to pull out the win, it really helped my confidence,” said Huang, who earlier helped the Tigers to their fifth straight WPIAL championship and fourth PIAA crown in five seasons. “That's when I thought to myself, ‘I actually have a chance at the title.' ”

North Allegheny coach Michelle Weniger said the victory against Santilli put a big smile on Huang.

“She enjoyed a few moments of joy with her teammate Ava (Catanzarite) but quickly had to change gears and prepare for her match against Eliza,” Weniger said.

Catanzarite, a freshman and the WPIAL runner-up, was eliminated by Askarova in the first round.

Huang downed the District 3 champion in the first round and the District 1 runner-up in the quarterfinals, both in two sets.

Weniger did not consider Huang an underdog.

“Ashley has a good game, and I felt she would be able to go deep into the tournament,” Weniger said, adding Huang was prepared for long, hard matches.

Huang was overwhelmed by her achievement.

“Winning the state title for myself and my school is definitely one of the best moments (of) my life,” she said.

Huang was making her first appearance in the PIAA singles championship. In 2015, she placed second with Tina Li in doubles.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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