Valley girls tennis ready for challenge in WPIAL team tournament

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Sunday, October 13, 2019 | 5:18 PM


The WPIAL Class AA team tournament is new for all seven members of the Valley girls tennis team, as the last time the Vikings advanced to the playoffs was 2015.

That year, Valley qualified as the No. 15 seed and lost in the first round to Quaker Valley.

The last time the Vikings girls reached the WPIAL quarterfinals was 2011. But coach Rachel Link said this year’s players knew they had what it took to make some noise, and they proved that with a 5-0 victory over Southmoreland in the first round.

Valley, the Section 3-AA runner up to Knoch and the No. 6 seed, will begin play Monday along with the other seven quarterfinalists. The Vikings (13-1) will travel to No. 3 Beaver at 3 p.m., with the winner advancing to Tuesday’s semifinals.

“I am beyond proud of what the girls have accomplished,” Link said. “The returning starters and three new to the lineup worked hard in every practice and through every match to improve their individual games to help the team succeed.”

Beaver punched its ticket to the quarterfinals with a 3-2 win over Derry, which finished fourth in Section 3.

“Beaver has a phenomenal tennis program, and we will have to play at the top of our game,” Link said.

Knoch, the No. 2 seed, will host No. 7 Mt. Pleasant.

“For us, we’re fortunate to have again competed in a very competitive section,” Link said. “Playing against strong teams all season long has absolutely prepared us for the WPIAL team tournament. We’re grateful for that and have respect for that.”

Senior sisters Madison and Casey Gatto, who started playing tennis as sophomores, were together last year at No. 1 doubles. Link said they have excelled since taking over at No. 1 and No. 2 singles.

“Both are natural athletes and are very coachable, and they have learned a very intricate sport in a phenomenally short amount of time,” Link said

Senior Aimee Johnson stayed put at No. 3 singles from last year, and Link said she has raised her game.

The third member of the Gatto triplets, Rylee Gatto, joined the team this year with no previous tennis experience, and she has found success with Eden Richey at No. 1 doubles. The duo is undefeated in team dual matches.

Richey moved up from No. 2 doubles last season.

“Rylee is new to the sport this year, and she came in with a great work ethic and was ready to learn,” Link said. “She and Eden found a bond and harmony in a short amount of time.”

Link said new starters Rachel Schrock, a sophomore, and Elisabeth Ervin, a freshman, have shown increasing continuity at No. 2 doubles and own several key victories.

“We are all really excited for this opportunity because we were so close last year. We missed (playoffs) by one match,” Madison Gatto said. “I am very proud of our team and how we have come together and played well. I am also excited for the younger players, including a lot of freshmen, who are just starting to play. They will have a good chance to continue making the playoffs.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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