Tennis standout Ava Catanzarite commits to UCLA

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020 | 2:09 PM


Franklin Park junior tennis standout Ava Catanzarite has committed to compete for one of the top college women’s teams in the country.

Catanzarite, 17, plans to join UCLA for the 2021-22 season.

A rising senior at PA Cyber who trains full-time in Florida, Catanzarite is listed 171st in the International Tennis Federation Junior Ranking. She ranks 185th in the U.S. Tennis Association girls 18 age group.

She is the top-ranked player in Pennsylvania, according to the Tennis Recruiting Network.

“The iconic stature of UCLA really resonated with me,” said Catanzarite, the 2017 WPIAL Class AAA singles runner-up as a North Allegheny freshman. “This is the home of such tennis greats as Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe.

“I wanted to play for a top program and under the direction of one of the best coaches in the country. UCLA is also a place I believe can best prepare me for professional tennis after I graduate, not to mention the campus is breathtaking and the academics are highly regarded.”

Under longtime coach Stella Sampras Webster, the sister of men’s great Pete Sampras, the Bruins ended third in this season’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings. They had a 12-1 overall record and a 5-0 record in the Pac-12 Conference before the season came to a halt because of the coronavirus.

They placed second in the ITA Division I National Women’s Team Indoor Championships in February, and were looking for their first NCAA title since 2014.

They have been NCAA champion twice and runner-up seven times.

Catanzarite, who is undecided about a major, made official visits to Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Georgia, plus an unofficial visit to Florida. She planned to visit UCLA before the pandemic struck.

“Even though I didn’t visit the campus yet, I was able to speak with the players over a Zoom call,” Catanzarite said. “I could tell how the team seemed to be like family.

“They have a strong bond with one another and respect for each other, and were very welcoming to me. Most of all, I truly believe in Stella as a coach.”

Catanzarite, whose father played football for Westminster and whose mother was part of the Pitt Golden Girls baton and dance line, said her goals are to vie for NCAA singles, doubles and team championships.

“Ava understood the process and hard work it took to get to this level,” said Rene Gomez, the director of the Gomez Tennis Academy in Naples, Fla., where Catanzarite has trained the last two years. “Under the direction of Stella Sampras, Ava will be able to compete at a high level and continue to develop her game.

“It’s a great opportunity.”

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