North Allegheny captures 6th straight WPIAL Class AAA girls tennis title
By: Josh Rizzo
Thursday, October 18, 2018 | 7:51 PM
Ashley Huang got used to the idea of having to fight tooth-and-nail throughout the season. On the eve of this tennis season, North Allegheny had three starters leave the team for various reasons.
Lineups and attitudes had to shift with personnel on hand.
What the Tigers cobbled together didn’t result in a team much different than North Allegheny’s storied tradition would dictate. The Tigers hit one of their major goals by toppling Shady Side Academy, 3-2, Tuesday at Hampton Community Park to win its sixth straight WPIAL Class AAA championship.
“Everyone on the team has improved tremendously through the season,” Huang said. “Our mindset coming into the match was we were going to fight our heart out, play super well and pump each other up and hope for the best.”
Tigers coach Michelle Weniger was pleased with how everyone was able to adjust on the fly. Weinger doesn’t feel North Allegheny was gifted anything.
“The night before camp started, I received messages from three of our starters from last year that they would not be returning for a variety of reasons,” Weniger said. “That was shocking. I had to change my strategy and my focus for the season. I had to redirect it and think about this.”
Huang had to have a new line of thinking while facing a stiff challenge from the Indians’ Elle Santora at No. 1 singles. Santora didn’t back down from Huang, forcing her to work for every point from the start. Huang wasn’t moving her feet well and didn’t feel right.
“I take every match seriously, and I always take it one point at a time,” Huang said. “She came out swinging from the gate and I was like ‘OK, she is having a good day, and I’m not playing too well.’ I had to find a way to win.”
Huang found her footing by the end of the first set and swept Santora, 7-5, 6-1. It set the tone for North Allegheny. Jenny Zhu won 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.
Shria Moturi and Ashley Chung won 6-4, 7-5 at second doubles for North Allegheny.
Shady Side Academy’s Aya Yuossef picked up a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 2 singles. The Indians doubles pair of Isha Reddy and Paige Golden won 3-6, 6-2, 2-6 at first doubles.
This was the second meeting between North Allegheny and Shady Side Academy this season. The teams battled to a 2-2 tie when rain halted the last match before it could be completed.
“Every match was competitive,” Indians coach Jeff Miller said. “The first time we were overwhelmed at one position, but every other one was competitive. It could have gone either way. Just any given day you battle and you win or you battle and you lose.”
North Allegheny has been battling since before the season started.
The Tigers adapted and ended up adding to their championship mythos.
“They played with heart and passion,” Weniger said. “They deserved it.”
Both finalists qualified for the state tournament, which begins next week.
Peters Township defeated Mt. Lebanon, 4-1, in the WPIAL Class AAA consolation match to earn a spot in the PIAA tournament field.
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.