Sewickley Academy athletes of the week: Alina Mattson, Victoria Keller

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018 | 7:03 AM


Alina Mattson and Victoria Keller

School: Sewickley Academy

Sport: Tennis

Class: Senior and sophomore

Claim to fame: Alina Mattson and Victoria Keller qualified for the PIAA tournament after placing third in the WPIAL Class AA girls tennis doubles championship. They suspect opponents might overlook them.

They’ve been in that position before in 2017, but a young Sewickley Academy team advanced to the state semifinals. If they are the underdogs again, it’s a role they’ll embrace.

“We were underestimated as a team last year, so proving people wrong felt really good,” Mattson said. “No one else had high expectations for us, and we blew it of the water.”

How did you two become a doubles team?

Victoria: She’s been on varsity four years and has played No. 1 doubles for two or three years, and I was injured to start the season and missed a few matches, so I didn’t know that I’d be able to work my way up to playing with her. Our coach put us with everyone to see who we have the best chemistry with, and I thought we played the best together and brought out the best in each other.

How do your strengths complement each other?

Victoria: I think having two different players is helpful. I think I bring athleticism from lacrosse and other sports, and she has athleticism and has been playing tennis a lot longer than I have. She gives me a lot of advice on tips and techniques, and I learn a lot from her. And it helps that we’re friends.

Your first set in the WPIAL consolation match against Blackhawk’s Julianna Begley and Chloe Stein came down to a tiebreaker. How much pressure did you feel?

Alina: It’s a lot of pressure, especially when you’re back and forth and you get a point, but the next is theirs. In those moments you have to relax. That’s why it’s so important to have a partner on the court. You always have another person there to help get set mentally and physically. Our motto is “one point at a time,” and we’ll see where it goes.

What was the key to pulling away in the second set?

Alina: Once we got to the second set we felt ready to keep going. It’s not that we weren’t in it, but the moment you win the first set your excitement carries through and you feel more comfortable.

Alina, you were one win away from qualifying for states in doubles competition last year. What does it mean to you to qualify now?

Alina: It means a lot, but we don’t always have people from our school go to states in singles and doubles. This year we have a doubles team and a singles player (Simran Bedi). Going to states as a team is always the emphasis, but I don’t think we realized how big a deal it was and how lucky we were when the game ended, and we knew we were going to states. It’s my first time going, so it’s incredible.

Victoria, what does it mean to you to get to go up against the best of the best in the state?

Victoria: It’s a great accomplishment. We’ll learn to adjust our game. You never know who you’re going to be up against, which I’ve learned from the WPIAL tournament.

Given that you placed third in WPIAL, do you feel you might be underdogs going into states?

Victoria: Last year people saw us as underdogs, because we were such a young team. We had six freshmen on the team. The fun part was rising up to occasion and proving people wrong about us being young and inexperienced by winning a lot.

Alina: I do think we might face something like “Oh they placed third, this will be an easy first round,” but all of the WPIAL teams are really even. Being the underdogs just makes us strive to do better despite the ranking.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.

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