Sewickley Academy, North Allegheny capture WPIAL girls tennis championships
By: Marty Stewart
Wednesday, October 4, 2017 | 9:15 PM
The Sewickley Academy girls tennis team claimed its first WPIAL title since 2014 and fifth overall on Wednesday after defeating Knoch, 4-1, in the Class AA championship match at North Allegheny.
Panthers coach Whitney Snyder had some doubts before the season started that his young team would be able to reach the final.
“Well, we started the season with six of our nine players being freshmen,” he said. “I knew they were very talented players, but I was unsure how the season would play out with such a young team.”
Freshman Evelyn Safar got the ball rolling at No. 1 singles with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Knoch freshman Laura Greb.
“I was a little bit nervous playing in my first WPIAL championship match,” she said. “But I got over it and was happy with how I played. I'm so proud of the team.”
Another Sewickley Academy freshman, Christina Walton, earned a win at third singles as she swept Emma West, 6-1, 6-2.
“I was real nervous,” Walton said. “I stayed nervous until the match was over.”
Knoch picked up its lone win at No. 2 singles when Brooke Bauer rallied past Sewickley freshman Simran Bedi, 0-6, 7-5, 6-2.
At No. 1 doubles, SA co-captains Lydia Elste, a senior, and junior Alina Mattson coasted to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Libby Conlon and Emily Ciganic.
“I had never played in a WPIAL championship before so I had a slight case of nerves,” Elste said. “It didn't last long. Alina and I played very well today. We fed off of each other.”
Mattson agreed: “We took control early and played a good match. The whole team played well, especially our freshmen. We knew in preseason practices that they had some special skills.”
The Panthers (14-4) also won at No. 2 doubles as senior Olivia McLeod and freshman Victoria Keller took charge in the third set to win 6-2, 6-7 (9), 6-2.
“What helped them tremendously was the leadership of Mattson and Elste,” Snyder said. “They were great role models for the younger players.”
Both teams qualified for the PIAA tournament Oct. 27-28 in Hershey. They will be joined by Neshannock, a 5-0 winner over Greensburg Central Catholic in the Class AA consolation match.
In Class AAA, North Allegheny claimed the WPIAL championship for the fifth straight season with a 5-0 win over Pine-Richland.
Ava Catanzarite, Ashley Huang and Rebekah Rest all won in singles. The doubles tandems of Carolyn Tsung and Claire Shao and Katherine Ambrose and Riya Yadav also were victorious.
The last time the Tigers lost in the WPIAL playoffs was a 3-2 defeat to Shady Side Academy in the 2012 semifinals.
The Tigers and Rams will head to the PIAA tournament, along with Mt. Lebanon, a 5-0 winner over Shady Side Academy in the consolation match.
Marty Stewart is a freelance writer.