Quaker Valley HOF tennis teams dominated opposition

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Friday, August 9, 2019 | 8:54 PM


Quaker Valley’s girls tennis program has been a dominant force in the 21st century.

The Quakers won four straight WPIAL Class 2A team titles from 2004-07. The final two championship teams (’06, ’07) gained additional honors as they will be inducted into the Quaker Valley Sports Hall of Fame on Sept. 29 at a ceremony at Sewickley Heights Golf Club.

“The girls on those teams were fantastic,” said Jeff Sebastian, who coached the teams. “I never had to give them a pep talk. They were fierce and no-nonsense. They were giggly up until they went inside that fence, and then it was all business.”

Members of the team included 2019 inductee Cate Stewart, Sarah Richman and Noella Richman in singles and doubles players Lucy Findley, Elizabeth Harbison, Brittany Hulings, Lindsay Toth and Kaitlin Wolz.

“I coached for eight total years. I’ve had other great players along the way because of the great tradition Quaker Valley has, but these were some of the best years of my career. They were just fantastic players,” Sebastian said. “They were some of our best students and some of our best athletes. Often, you don’t find a stretch of years where that happens.”

Quaker Valley had a 40-2 record over the two seasons. The losses came in the PIAA championship match against Harriton both years.

“They just had slightly more firepower than we did,” Sebastian said.

Stewart and the Richman sisters were the singles players on both squads.

“They were fantastic. They would have been No. 1 singles players on any other team,” Sebastian said. “We were sweeping teams in singles before doubles even took the court.”

In 2006, Hulings and Toth teamed up at first doubles, and Wolz and Harbison were at second doubles. The next season, Toth and Wolz teamed up at first doubles, and Harbison and Findley were at second doubles.

“I was able to mix and match those teams,” Sebastian said. “You want to have a strong baseline player and a strong net player together. Some of those girls had maybe equivalent skill sets, but the key was finding a good match and chemistry was a big part, too.”

The high talent level often meant Quaker Valley’s toughest competition came in practice.

“Often, Cate would practice for a couple hours with her pro, so I didn’t require her to come to our team practice. The remaining girls were very fierce,” Sebastian said. “We went from 3 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. and often, at 5:30 p.m., they’d want to stay and hit. There were some long days, but I always had a smile on my face when I was down there with them. They worked hard.”

Stewart looks forward to catching up with some of her former teammates.

“Everyone was so good. That was one of the amazing parts of my high school experience. We got to go to states, and it wasn’t just one player leading the way. You had all these amazing players and girls who got along off the court, too. That helps win matches,” she said. “We really supported each other. That was more fun than winning any singles matches. When the team won, that’s when the real celebration happened.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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