Bethel Park’s Gorman defends WPIAL singles title; Sewickley Academy’s Close wins in Class 2A

Friday, September 24, 2021 | 6:51 PM

Once was nice for Bethel Park’s Mia Gorman.

Twice is much better.

The senior standout captured her second straight WPIAL Class AAA championship Friday afternoon at North Allegheny with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Peters Township junior Kat Wang.

“It’s exciting. Senior year. Two in a row,” Gorman said. “It’s a different feeling than last year. Last year was more excitement and relief because of how close it got at the end. This one, I just kind of plugged away.”

Gorman needed three sets last year to topple Pine-Richland’s Elaine Qian. The third set went to 7-5.

Gorman and Wang’s match Friday was the third time the two played in the span of a week. Gorman topped Wang, 7-5, 6-3, in the Section 4 finals, and the two also played in the section match between Bethel Park and Peters Township. But that section match was halted in the second set because of rain.

Gorman also defeated Wang, 6-2, 6-3, in last year’s WPIAL semifinals en route to her inaugural title.

“At the end of the day, I knew that I had to make more returns and get my serves deeper and keep her deeper and moving,” Gorman said. “Kat and I have had some really good matches. We’ve known each other for a really, really long time. It’s always a good match.”

Gorman, who also placed third at WPIALs as both a freshman and sophomore, advances to states at the Hershey Racquet Club for the fourth time.

She was eliminated by the eventual state champion her first three years there, including last year’s runner-up finish to Council Rock North’s Amelia Honer.

“To me, (heading to states for a fourth time) is just cool,” Gorman said. “Nobody from my school has done that, I don’t think. If I go out and play like I did here, I think I will be OK.”

Wang earned the silver medal this year after a pair of fourth-place finishes. A successful doubles player with teammate Marra Bruce, Wang will make her first trip to states.

“It’s really exciting, switching things up a bit,” Wang said. “I’ve been going for doubles for a couple of years. It’s refreshing to go for singles. I’ve been training for this all summer.”

Friday’s temperatures at North Allegheny were warmer that Thursday’s rounds, and sunny skies and breezy conditions greeted the competitors in their medal quests.

The top three finishers in both the Class AAA and Class AA tournaments will play in Hershey the weekend of Nov. 6.

State qualifying has returned to normal after covid logistical issues last fall prevented the PIAA from having more than just the respective district champions move on to states.

Upper St. Clair junior Maggie Stief played in the WPIAL Class AAA tournament for the second time — she also qualified as a freshman — and earned a spot in the PIAA draw with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Latrobe senior Jenna Bell in the third-place consolation match.

“This feels great,” Stief said. “Last year, I didn’t make it because our section is really tough. I had never beaten Jenna before. I tried to move her as much as I could because that is what I needed to do, move her to her forehand and things like that.”

Class AA

Sewickley Academy sophomore Ashley Close knew all about Bauer power.

She engaged in a third-set tiebreaker thriller last year with Knoch’s now-graduated Brook Bauer in the WPIAL Class AA team finals. Bauer won that matchup to help the Knights top Close’s Sewickley Academy squad, 3-2.

Close found herself focused in on another Bauer on Friday at North Allegheny with WPIAL gold on the line.

This time, Close was victorious with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Knoch junior Ally Bauer.

“I played pretty well,” said Close, who defaulted out of last year’s Section 5 championship match because of a sprained ankle and missed WPIAL singles.

“The conditions were hotter than yesterday. Ally played great, too, and it was a solid match. There were a lot of long points. It was definitely closer than the score showed.”

Bauer led 3-2 in the second set before Close won the next two games, gained a measure of momentum and won the final two games to close out the match.

“At the beginning of the (second) set, I was more stressed, but once I got into it, I started to loosen up and was able to play my game,” Close said.

Bauer, who claimed last year’s WPIAL doubles title with sister Brooke and went on to finish second at states, will compete in the PIAA singles tournament for the first time.

“I felt I did OK,” Bauer said. “I was just outplayed today.

“Once I got down, I figured I had to change something up. I tried to come in and be more aggressive. But with the wind, it was a little harder.”

“I am really excited to see what I can do at states for singles.”

South Park junior Nicole Kempton also is PIAA bound, and she will be playing at the state singles tournament for the second time (2019).

Kempton punched her ticket with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Knoch sophomore Emily Greb in the consolation match.

She finished as WPIAL runner-up last year to four-time champion Laura Greb from Knoch, but she was denied a spot at states under the PIAA covid limitations.

“I think with my style of play, playing inside at the Hershey Racquet Club, I can really show the rest of the state what I can do,” Kempton said. “I’ve trained all my life indoors. I think I can perform even better than I did here today, and especially yesterday since I unexpectedly lost (in the semifinals).”

Greb was denied a spot at states for the second time in as many attempts at WPIALs.

Last year, she finished third overall with a win over Beaver graduate Anna Blum.

“Both (Emily and Nicole) qualified to go to states last year but weren’t able to go, so both really wanted this win,” Knoch coach Nancy Conlon said.

“Nicole is such a great player, and Emily really gave her a battle. Emily will have two more chances at WPIALs, and I know she will be ready with a lot of confidence.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .

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