Upper St. Clair, Sewickley Academy claim WPIAL team tennis titles

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | 9:19 PM

It was a great day to be a Panther at the WPIAL girls team tennis championship.

That’s because Upper St. Clair in Class 3A and Sewickley Academy in Class 2A captured titles with impressive 4-1 wins Wednesday at the Washington & Jefferson College Tennis Center.

Upper St. Clair defeated 2020 champion Latrobe, while Sewickley Academy toppled 2020 winner Knoch. It was Upper St. Clair’s first title in 18 years and 14th overall.

This is Sewickley Academy’s ninth title. The Panthers have faced Knoch in the finals five consecutive years.

The four finalists all advance to the PIAA team tournament, which begins Tuesday.

Upper St. Clair, which lost to Latrobe in the 2020 finals, put together a strong performance, winning two singles matches and both doubles matches.

Maggie Stief defeated Latrobe senior Jenna Bell, 6-4, 6-0, at first singles to give USC a quick lead.

Upper St. Clair coach Renee Connors said that win was huge.

“It was very important for us that Maggie did that,” Connors said. “She was kind of down from the past couple matches. I said, ‘Maggie, you have to know that everyone here plays an important role. If you defeat yourself, you have to learn from your losses. You come back and are that much stronger.’

“Maggie dug down inside and she played like she wanted to play and walked out on the court with confidence.”

Claire Loomis picked up the other singles win for USC while the doubles teams of Leah Laird and Hope Krawczyk and Izzy Yoos and Victoria Semenov finished off the win.

“I think we learned from our loss in 2020,” Connors said. “It’s interesting we came back after losing to them last year. We came back in full force. We learned to fight for every point.

“We became more consistent this season. It was more of a mental thing. We grew to be stronger and kept ourselves up and positive on the court. There was no negativity.”

Latrobe first-year coach Karissa Skiba said she wants her team to put the loss behind them and focus on the state tournament. The team is familiar with that event, having reached the finals last season.

Upper St. Clair will face the Pittsburgh City League champion while Latrobe will travel to the District 9-10 winner.

“We want to focus on moving forward from here and refocus,” Skiba said. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. I’m proud of how they played. Upper St. Clair played great. Every match was close, but they were able to secure the critical points.”

Sewickley Academy, which has now won four of the past five years, also won the close, crucial matches.

Ashley and Kirsten Close won singles matches for Sewickley Academy and the Panthers swept the doubles behind the teams of Anjali Shah and Rayna Thakkar and Maria Silvaggio and Roshni Thakkar.

“It was a really hard-fought match,” Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder said. “Every time Sewickley and Knoch play, it’s a great match. They have a tremendous program. We always have to bring our A-plus game.

“The difference was I felt our girls were patient and were willing to play long points. That worked out to our advantage.”

Sewickley Academy clinched the match when Ashley Close defeated Ally Bauer.

Knoch coach Nance Conlon said she felt the match, even though it was a loss, will help her team.

“We played a really good match against a tough team,” Conlon said. “I feel we’re more prepared. We haven’t had the opportunity to have strong matches like this. So it was great to come out and play a strong team. I feel we’ll become even stronger for states.”

Sewickley Academy will face the District 5 champion and Knoch faces the District 10 champ.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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