Penn-Trafford freshman Mia Williams, South Park senior Nicole Kempton capture WPIAL tennis titles

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Thursday, September 22, 2022 | 7:16 PM


Penn-Trafford freshman Mia Williams and South Park senior Nicole Kempton did something Thursday that had never been done at their school: win a WPIAL girls tennis title.

And both did it with dominating performances despite cool temperatures and gusty wind conditions at Bethel Park. During the first day of the tournament Wednesday, players were greeted with temperatures 20 degrees warmer.

It was a lot different in the finals as the players had to deal with difficult conditions.

The weather didn’t seem to bother Williams and her power game as she disposed of Upper St. Clair senior Maggie Stief, 6-1, 6-0.

“It was a good win,” Williams said. “It definitely wasn’t easy or an easy opponent.

“I definitely had to adjust to the windy conditions, but it wasn’t too bad. The warm-up against her before the match helped me. When the wind wasn’t a factor, my first serves were good and my ground strokes were good as well.”

Stief found out quickly what was in store as Williams’ power game forced mistakes. She also had numerous solid baseline shots.

Stief said the wind was tough.

“It took a lot from my game, but she’s also a good player,” Stief said. “I felt like the ball wouldn’t go anywhere.”

Stief finished third in the WPIAL in 2021 and qualified for the PIAA tournament.

“I’m going to try my best again,” Stief said.

Williams also is looking forward to competing in the state tournament Nov. 4-5 at Hershey.

“I’m excited about going to states,” Williams said. “I wish I didn’t have to wait a month.

“It’s also exciting to be Penn-Trafford first state champion. That’s exciting for me.”

Kempton, who was seeded third, defeated returning champion Ashley Close, a junior from Sewickley Academy, 6-2, 6-3. Close defeated Kempton in three sets in the 2021 semifinals.

But Kempton turned it around this season. She credits a different mental approach.

“My mindset was a lot better,” Kempton said, “and I was very much more confident and very much more relaxed. I knew coming into it that I had nothing to lose.

“I just had to play my best, fight every point and fight for every ball.”

Kempton said the wind was definitely a factor.

“You saw that I had to re-toss a trillion times to get the right toss on it,” Kempton said. “You had to aim at big targets on the court. You had to leave room for error, basically.”

Kempton said it’s an honor to be South Park’s first champion.

“This is amazing,” she said. “I’ve been working for this since last year.

“I wanted to come back strong, and I accomplished it. I’m so proud of myself, and I’m thankful for my coaches and parents. They pushed me to be the best.”

Close said she was a little disappointed with the result.

“I didn’t think I played my best. The conditions were a little difficult,” Close said. “But it was a good match.

“The wind got more difficult as the match went on, especially for my game because my ball kept flying in the air.”

Close finished third in the state in 2021, and she’s looking to go higher this season.

In the third-place matches, North Allegheny senior Sara Fernandez defeated Shady Side Academy senior Nichole Poltinnikov, 6-3, 6-4, to win in Class 3A. Knoch junior Emily Greb defeated Winchester Thurston sophomore Cecilia Gurgel, 6-2, 6-2, in Class 2A.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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