Knoch outlasts Sewickley Academy, wins elusive WPIAL Class AA girls tennis team title
Thursday, October 22, 2020 | 8:43 PM
Knoch didn’t want another second-place trophy.
After three straight runner-up finishes to Sewickley Academy at the WPIAL Class AA girls tennis team championships, the Knights broke through Thursday on the courts at Shady Side Academy.
Knoch senior Brooke Bauer outlasted Sewickley Academy freshman Ashley Close in a third-set tiebreaker at No. 2 singles to clinch her team’s first WPIAL championship. The Knights posted a 3-2 victory.
“I was getting tight, as I am sure she was, because it was so close,” said Bauer of both the third set and its tiebreaker. “I just tried to think about playing the point right in front of me and not worry about the previous point, good or bad, or how a game might turn out.”
Close won the first set 6-1, but Bauer came back from down 3-2 in the second set to take it, 6-4.
Bauer held leads of 3-1, 4-2 and 6-5 in the third set, but Close held serve to take it to 6-6 and force the tiebreaker.
Close led 5-3 in the tiebreaker before Bauer ran off four straight points to win the set and the match. Knoch team members stormed the court and hugged Bauer in celebration as Sewickley Academy players ran to console a physically and emotionally drained Close.
“Ashley is such a phenomenal player,” Bauer said. “We’ve practiced together at (Pennsylvania Tennis Academy) in Wexford. We’ve played over the summer, and it’s always been really close. We have such equal games. She can get to everything and makes it so difficult to hit a winner. You have to really push yourself to get on top of that ball.”
Five minutes after Bauer’s win, Sewickley Academy senior Victoria Keller and junior Milla Ivanova finished off a three-set win at No. 1 doubles. They rallied for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win over Knoch sophomore Ally Bauer and freshman Ava Santora.
“I knew it was going to come down to one or two points,” Knoch coach Nancy Conlon said. “We knew it could’ve gone either way. It was just an amazing match, and I am so happy for the girls.”
Knoch took a 2-1 advantage in the match with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 singles. Knights senior Laura Greb defeated Panthers senior Simran Bedi, 6-2, 6-2, at No. 1 singles, and Laura’s sister, freshman Emily Greb, posted a 6-0, 6-2 win over Sewickley senior Christina Walton.
The Sewickley combination of seniors Aleena Purewal and Emma DiSantis scored the first point of the match with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Knoch freshmen Jade Nether and Lindsey Greb at No. 2 doubles.
After those matches concluded, all eyes turned to drama of the final two.
“I think my heart rate was through the roof,” Laura Greb said about the pressure-packed games down the stretch in both the No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles matches. “I was super nervous but also really excited at the same time. When Brooke finally pulled through, I was just ecstatic. We all screamed and ran to hug her. It was an amazing feeling.
“Each year, we’ve gotten better as a team. We had new players come in play great this year. We did this as a team. I am so excited.”
Because of covid-19 safety concerns and logistics, the PIAA is limiting the state team tournament, as well as the playoffs for singles and doubles, to only the district champions.
As a result, only Knoch, now 14-0, will enter the PIAA Class AA team bracket. Sewickley Academy ends its season 13-1.
“I am so happy we had tennis this fall,” Sewickley Academy coach Whit Snyder said. “The skill level that was on display today was phenomenal. The sportsmanship was outstanding. Congratulations to Knoch.” I am also super proud of my girls for persevering to take the match this far. A match like this is what high school sports is all about.”
With Thursday’s win, Knoch completed the WPIAL sweep. Laura Greb captured her fourth Class AA singles title Sept. 25, and Brooke and Ally Bauer teamed to win the doubles title Oct. 8.
“To have all three going to states, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Conlon said.
The Knights begin state team tournament play Wednesday with a quarterfinal match against District 6 champion Westmont Hilltop.
The semifinal and championship matches will be Oct. 31 at the Hershey Racquet Club.
Greb and the Bauer sisters will begin their state tournaments with quarterfinal matches Nov. 4.
“We’ll all have to stay focused and take it one match at a time,” Laura Greb said. “We’ll be going in with a lot of confidence.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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