Sewickley Academy girls tennis reaches most important goal by simply stepping on court

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Sunday, October 4, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Over the past few years, the Sewickley Academy girls tennis team has been the one to beat in WPIAL Class AA team tennis.

They’ve won the past three WPIAL team titles, defeating Knoch all three times, and they’ve also won the past two PIAA titles, defeating District 3 champion Wyomissing, 3-2, in the 2018 finals and Knoch last season.

Although the Panthers still have aspirations to repeat what they accomplished last season and the year before, they are really just happy about being able to take the court this fall.

“It’s exciting to just have tennis. That’s the message that every coach should tell you,” longtime Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder said. “We’re really fortunate to have a daily opportunity to make a difference in kids’ lives, and that’s by far been the main focus. We’re thankful to have the team and the daily commitment. It’s been fun to play matches in our section as well as the exhibition matches.”

Thanks to covid-19, the 2020 girls tennis season has already been different. The Panthers haven’t been able to travel in a bus, and parents have pitched in by giving their kids rides to away matches. Each player also has to use her own can of balls. During doubles matches, all four players have their own can to serve with and each player must pick up her own ball or it must be directed by a racket in some way.

“It’s very time consuming, but we’re really just thankful to have tennis,” Snyder said.

Despite the changes, Sewickley Academy is still replicating the success that it has experienced in recent years. As of Sept. 29, the Panthers were undefeated with a record of 6-0 and only Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Shady Side Academy had won individual matches against them.

They defeated Shady Side Academy, 4-1, and scraped by Mt. Lebanon and Peters Township by a score of 3-2. But the Panthers are still looking to get stronger as the season nears its end.

“We’re just looking to put our best foot forward,” Snyder said.

The Panthers also look slightly different than they have in years past. Their No. 1 singles player, Evelyn Safar, transferred to North Allegheny, and freshman Ashley Close was placed in the starting lineup at No. 2 singles.

Senior Simran Bedi moved up to No. 1 singles, and senior Christina Walton stayed at No. 3 singles. Victoria Keller is back at No. 1 doubles for the Panthers and she’s playing with Milla Ivanova so far this year. Snyder said they are still determining their No. 2 doubles team.

For the past few years, seniors like Bedi, Walton, Keller and Aleena Purewal have developed a winning culture for the Panthers, and Snyder said he couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve accomplished.

“We have an amazing senior class, and these five girls have been together for all four years, and that’s quite a statement,” Snyder said. “I’m very proud of them, and they have really established a winning culture for the program.”

As the Panthers closed out their regular season schedule, they were still looking to improve on a few things and prepare themselves for another postseason run. In order to do that, Snyder wanted his team to just focus on three things.

“First and foremost, we need to keep everyone healthy,” Snyder said. “Secondly, we just need to work on our fundamentals, and thirdly would be getting good competition leading up to that point. There’s been a lot more tennis is the past, so we’ve always had more opportunities to prepare.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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