Sewickley Academy girls top Knoch for third straight WPIAL team tennis title
Thursday, October 17, 2019 | 6:43 PM
The Sewickley Academy girls tennis team captured the WPIAL Class AA team tennis championship for the third straight year with a 3-2 victory over Knoch.
For the three-time champs, it started in doubles competition. The pairing of Victoria Keller and Emma DiSantis earned Sewickley its first point with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Libby Conlon and Jadyn Brown at first doubles.
Then Aleena Purewal and Milla Ivanova cruised to an easy 6-0, 6-1 victory over Caroline Ejzak and Riley Winn to take a 2-0 lead. With the competition that the Knights presented in all three singles matches, the Panthers knew that it was going to be important to earn both doubles victories.
“I think a lot of times, because our singles players are so strong, we kind of, in our heads, have the idea that our singles players will get it done,” Keller said. “But today, we kind of went into the match with the thought of, ‘OK doubles, we have to do this.’”
The Panthers were sitting pretty with a 2-0 lead in hand, but the Knights didn’t go away easily. Both Bauer sisters, Brooke and Ally, came away with victories. At No. 2 singles, Brooke defeated Sewickley’s Simran Bedi 6-4, 6-2 in a competitive match.
After Ally lost her first set, things were looking bleak for the Knights. But the talented freshman bounced back to take the next two sets, 6-4, 6-2, to earn a three-set victory over Sewickley’s Christina Walton and bring her team even.
“I knew she was nervous, but for me, it was just getting her to play her own game instead of playing her opponents,” Knoch coach Nance Conlon said. “So she was able to dial it back in and calm down and she really came back strong.”
The No. 1 singles match added to the drama at the Oxford Athletic Club in Wexford.
Sewickley’s Evelyn Safar and Knoch’s Laura Greb had played against each other on the same stage the past two years. Safar won the first meeting when they were both freshmen and Greb took home last year’s contest. They had also met outside of high school tennis, too.
“Coming into this year, I knew we were really neck and neck,” Safar said. “We’ve played against each other in singles and doubles, so I just kind of walked into today and I said that I just needed to play my best because I knew that she was going to, too.”
The juniors split the first two sets, with Safar bouncing back from a 2-5 deficit to capture the first 7-5. Greb captured the second set by a 6-2 score, but Safar wasn’t kept down for long.
She captured the match with a 6-3 third-set score and clinched the championship for her team.
“My team was there for me the entire time,” Safar said. “I think the reason that I was able to pull it out was because of their support.”
The Panthers captured their third title in three years and added a seventh trophy to the case at Sewickley. Now, the Panthers will set their sights on doing something they haven’t done before: Capturing a second-straight PIAA state championship.
“We don’t like to go anywhere thinking that we are going to win,” Safar said. “But I know we have a really strong team and we really support each other really well.”
Knoch will also advance to the state tournament. After a loss to the defending state champions, the Knights aren’t exactly resting on their laurels, but using it as motivation to come back stronger.
“I told the girls, ‘Yeah, we lost, but we lost to the state champions and we can face them again,’” Conlon said. “The goal would be to face them again. They are the best team in the state from last year. So I think we played strong, I think we played well, and I think this gave them incentive to come back and play even harder.”
The PIAA state tournament will start Oct. 22. Sewickley Academy will face off against Villa Maria Academy, the District 10 champion. Knoch will play the champion from District 6.
Beaver defeated Neshannock 3-2 in the consolation final and also earned a trip to states.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .