Latrobe sweeps singles, beats Upper St. Clair for WPIAL girls team tennis title

Thursday, October 22, 2020 | 7:39 PM

The distance from Latrobe to Bethel Park is around 50 miles.

The trip proved to be well worth it for the Latrobe girls tennis team.

“Absolutely,” said coach Chad Kissell. “We didn’t care how far we had to drive to play for the WPIAL championship. Our girls rose to the occasion.”

Latrobe squeaked past Upper St. Clair, 3-2, Wednesday on a sunny afternoon at Bethel Park High School to win the WPIAL Class AAA girls team tennis title.

“I’ve been telling the girls since the start of the season that they are as good as any team there is,” Kissell said. “Our goal was compete for the WPIAL championship.

“We knew USC was a great team for them to make it to the finals. They have some really good players. We (were) really excited for the challenge.”

The Wildcats won the three singles matches; USC won twice in doubles.

After Latrobe junior Jenna Bell defeated USC sophomore Maggie Stief, 6-4, 6-0, at No. 1 singles and senior Addison Kemerer defeated senior Anna Rush, 6-1, 6-1, at No. 2 singles, the championship match boiled down to the outcome at third singles.

Latrobe junior Carolina Walters confidently plodded past her opponent, freshman Evie Ellenberger, 6-2, 6-2, in the longest contest of the day.

The match was closer than what the final score indicates.

“The girls played amazing,” Kissell said. “My No. 1 and No. 2 girls did an unbelievable job of taking care of business. And Carolina pulled through in a long match. It’s a mental thing to stay that focused. Carolina is mentally tough. She is just like a human backboard out there.

“We needed all three to pull through for us. They got off to hot starts and never slowed down.”

Walters, one of four juniors in the lineup, said she was aware the championship hinged on her match.

“Definitely. There was a lot of pressure in that last game,” Walters said. “We’ve been waiting all season for this. We’re super excited and can’t wait to go to states.”

The Wildcats qualified for the PIAA tournament and will open up at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28 at Oxford North.

USC, which finished 7-1 in section play, advanced to WPIALs as the No. 2 seed in Class AAA. The Panthers erased No. 15 Hempfield (5-0), No. 7 Fox Chapel (4-1) and No. 3 Pine-Richland (3-2) in the first three rounds.

“We were out their fighting,” USC coach Renee Villani said. “We have a team with a lot of depth. We just had too many unforced errors. It was Latrobe’s day today.

“I’m proud of the girls. They stuck together and worked hard this season.”

USC seniors Danni Gibbons and Gia Winseck topped junior Maya Jain and senior Reese Petrosky, 6-2, 6-2, at first doubles. Juniors Leah Lund and Hope Krawczyk slid past Latrobe sophomore Avery Massaro and junior Emily Pierce, 6-4, 6-4, at second doubles

“It was quality tennis by both teams in every match,” Kissell said. “It came down to the wire. I don’t think the teams could be more closely matched.”

Latrobe (14-0) earned its fourth straight section title with an undefeated record and is 32-0 in section play since 2017.

The fourth-seeded Wildcats advanced to the WPIAL final by rolling past No. 13 West Allegheny (5-0), No. 5 Shady Side Academy (4-1) and top-seeded Peters Township (4-1).

PT, the defending champ, was seeking its sixth team title.

“I felt the team played some of its best tennis (against PT),” Kissell said. “The girls played like they had nothing to lose and really rose to the occasion.

“I would like to recognize how hard these girls have worked. All their success is credited to their hard work. They have earned everything they’ve accomplished this year.”

The WPIAL title was the third in school history in girls tennis for Latrobe, the first since 2005.

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