North Allegheny freshman bursts onto scene, Sewickley Academy junior reaches goal in WPIAL tennis finals

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024 | 5:41 PM


Advaita Sircar made his WPIAL tournament debut Tuesday and continued his run Wednesday in the Class 3A singles championship match at Glen Creek Tennis Club in South Park Township.

The North Allegheny freshman, the No. 2 seed, made the most of his inaugural championship opportunity as he took down No. 1 seed Adam Memije, a junior from Gateway, in three sets.

He captured the first set 6-2 and saw Memije rally for a 6-3 win in set two before claiming the third set 6-3 to secure the gold medal.

“I played pretty good throughout the tournament,” said Sircar, who punched his ticket to the finals with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Memije’s Gateway teammate, junior No. 3 seed Zidaan Hassan, in the semifinals Tuesday at North Allegheny.

“The final was so hard. (Memije) is just so fast. He just doesn’t miss. He hits the ball hard, and he’s so accurate. He kept moving me around.”

Wednesday’s championship and consolation matches in both Class 3A and Class 2A were moved from the outside courts at North Allegheny because of the threat of rain.

“I prefer inside way more because I like faster courts, and outside is too slow, and it’s in the sun,” Sircar said. “The wind also, it affects my game too much.”

Memije entered Wednesday’s Class 3A final hoping to finish off a WPIAL-championship “triple crown.”

Last year, the Gateway junior captured a WPIAL doubles title with Hassan and also led Gateway to the WPIAL team title and the PIAA semifinals.

He also was hoping for redemption after cramps in the quarterfinals last year helped derail his run in the WPIAL singles tournament as the No. 1 seed. But the day belonged to Sircar.

“(The championship) match was really tiring, three long sets of hitting hard back and forth and moving around constantly,” Memije said. “You have to be prepared for that. It was just intense.”

Sircar jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set before finishing it off at 6-2.

Memije rallied, however, in the second set.

He held serve to go up 4-3 and then broke Sircar’s serve.

With Memije serving, Sircar hit two returns into the net to fall behind 0-30. Memije later hit a winner to put him at set point, and Sircar then returned a serve long to give Memije the 6-3 win.

Sircar shook off the second-set loss. He broke Memije and then held serve for a 5-2 lead.

Two games later, Sircar held serve again for the 6-3 match-clinching victory.

Memije and Sircar played their championship match with the knowledge that both had secured a spot in the PIAA tournament May 24-25 at the Hershey Racquet Club. Only the WPIAL finalists earned state berths in Class 3A.

“I am excited because it will be my first time playing at states,” Sircar said.

Hassan bounced back from his semifinal loss to Sircar with a dominant 6-2, 6-1 win over Upper St. Clair junior Ari Plutko in the consolation final.

It was his second third-place finish in as many WPIAL singles appearances.

In Class 2A, meanwhile, Sewickley Academy junior Severin Harmon won silver in last year’s singles tournament.

Gold was what he was after this year.

Harmon, the top seed, was strong in Wednesday’s championship match. He defeated WPIAL veteran Jackson Gillespie, a senior from Aquinas Academy, in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

“It’s awesome,” Harmon said shortly after finishing his three-match run to the title. “It was one of the things I was working hard on over the winter, to try and get back here and get this opportunity. I was able to capitalize on it. It is really nice to be a part of that list (of champions at Sewickley Academy).

“I had a tough draw. … Every match, I had to fight. It was not easy at all. It was really rewarding (to win the title).”

The Class 2A final was a rematch of last year’s semifinal won by Harmon. He said the familiarity between him and Gillespie was there.

“We used to train together, actually, a few years ago, so we knew each other pretty well,” Harmon said. “He gets to everything. He is just so athletic. He’s really hard to play against.”

A new champion was guaranteed to be crowned in Class 2A this year as last year’s titlist, Winchester Thurston’s Austin He, was not in this year’s tournament to defend his championship.

For Gillespie, it was his fourth WPIAL singles tournament, and he bettered his finish each of the past three years.

He bowed out in the first round in 2021, made the quarterfinals as a sophomore and was third last year before this year’s runner-up finish.

“If I had a fifth year, I’d probably be golden,” Gillespie said with a laugh.

South Park sophomore Jonah Jasek, in the WPIAL Class 2A tournament for a second year, won his consolation match against Hampton senior Vitaliy Pikalo, 6-2, 6-0.

As the No. 15 seed last year, Jasek lost to Harmon in the first round.

All four players left in the Class 2A tournament Wednesday played their respective matches knowing they also had punched their tickets to the state tournament as four from the WPIAL will battle the rest of the state May 24-25.

“It’s just about continuing to play my game and trusting it,” Harmon said. “I think I did a good job of that today.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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