Sewickley Academy girls tennis season highlighted by section title, state playoff berth

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Sunday, November 19, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Sewickley Academy had little difficulty defeating District 5 champion Bedford in the first round of the PIAA Class 2A girls tennis playoffs.

The Panthers, coached by the legendary Whitney Snyder, won by a 4-1 margin.

It was a bit of a different outcome in Round 2, as Scranton Prep, the District 2 champion, secured a 4-0 win against the WPIAL runner-up Sewickley squad.

Scranton Prep went on to capture the PIAA title, defeating District 10 winner Cathedral Prep, 3-2, in the semifinal round and District 1 winner Lower Moreland, 3-1, in the championship round.

Led by junior Rayna Thakkar, senior Gwyneth Belt and junior Maria Sirianni at the singles positions, Sewickley won a section title for the 16th consecutive year and for the 20th time since 1995.

“As our season has come to an end, it is a bittersweet moment,” Thakkar said. “Our team performed very well this season, and I am proud of each and every one of our players. We had a great run this season, and I know we are all excited at the opportunity to possibly compete at states again next year.

“I am super proud of our team’s performance this season.”

Thakkar helped organize a program called Steel City Codes at her school. She also has taken classic Indian and Bollywood dance classes since age 5.

Thakkar finished with a 13-4 record at the No. 1 singles position this season.

“As for my season, I feel I performed well and put my heart into every match I played,” she said. “However, as my coach always says, ‘Never be satisfied.’ So, walking away from this season, I am ready to work on my game and come back even better and stronger next season.

“I would like to give a special shout out to coach Whitney and coach Al, who are both an integral part of our team. They are the two most dedicated people I know, and our team would not have experienced the growth we did throughout the season and the success we’ve had for the past three years without them.”

Sewickley Academy was looking to win its ninth WPIAL championship in girls tennis.

The No. 2-seeded Panthers, instead, finished second in Class 2A, losing a 3-2 decision to No. 1 Knoch in the WPIAL finals Oct. 18 at the Janet L. Swanson Tennis Center at Washington & Jefferson College.

“We faced a talented team from Knoch and came up a little short,” Belt said, “but I am very proud about how my teammates played. The team battled throughout the playoffs, we’ve had successful wins.

“Many people thought we would struggle to compete at a high level after losing two key players. However, our team came together and showed grit and perseverance which has resulted in a great season.”

Sewickley defeated No. 15 McGuffey, No. 7 Quaker Valley and No. 3 North Catholic by 5-0 scores in the first three rounds.

At first doubles were seniors Anjalie Shah and Abby Bojalad while two underclassmen, freshman Rani Shah and sophomore Annabelle Christ, competed at second doubles.

Against Knoch, Shah and Christ posted a 6-0, 6-1 victory at No. 2 doubles and Sirianni captured a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 decision at third singles.

Sewickley finished with a 14-3 overall record after going 3-1 in the WPIAL playoffs and 1-1 in the state playoffs.

The Panthers started out the season with a nonsection loss to WPIAL 3A quarterfinalist Shady Side Academy, then reeled off 13 consecutive victories to take a 13-1 record into the WPIAL finals.

Sewickley won five of its section matches by 5-0 scores.

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