WPIAL girls tennis preview: Knoch’s Laura Greb has shot at making history

Friday, August 28, 2020 | 5:06 PM

Laura Greb wants to make WPIAL tennis history.

The Knoch senior standout hopes to put herself in position to win a fourth WPIAL Class AA singles championship. She would be the first player to accomplish the feat in the history of either classification.

“There’s a little bit of pressure, but I am more excited than anything to see what I can do,” said Greb, who defeated senior teammate Brooke Bauer last year for WPIAL singles title No. 3. “I just want to take it match by match. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make it through the season and play the tournaments like WPIALs.”

Girls tennis in the WPIAL and other fall sports were given the green light by the PIAA on Aug. 21, and the players and coaches are hoping the season can be played to a safe completion.

Safety measures were put in place this summer by each school for workouts, practices and matches, which begin Monday.

Greb and Bauer could be headed for a rematch in the finals of the WPIAL tournament, tentatively set for Sept. 23-24, but both know there are others ready to challenge for the top spots, including South Park sophomore Nicole Kempton and Sewickley Academy senior Christina Walton.

Kempton topped Walton in the WPIAL third-place match last year, and Greb, Bauer and Kempton made the PIAA quarterfinals.

“There is no guarantee we will both make it back to the finals,” said Bauer, a three-time PIAA qualifier. “There’s always really good players in the WPIAL who want that chance to win a WPIAL title. That’s what makes it fun.”

Knoch sophomore Ally Bauer returns after winning the WPIAL Class AA doubles title with then-senior Libby Conlon. The duo got as far as the PIAA quarterfinals.

The Bauers and Greb will form the core of a deep Knights team that hopes to unseat three-time defending champion Sewickley Academy for the Class AA title.

The Panthers have defeated Knoch in the WPIAL finals the past three years and topped the Knights in last year’s PIAA championship match.

Evelyn Safar, Sewickley Academy coach Whit Snyder said, did not return to the team this fall, but Walton, seniors Simran Bedi, Victoria Keller, Emma DiSantis and Aleena Purewal, and junior Milla Ivanova are starters from last year back in the fold.

“We still have a deep team, and we’re being thorough with our tryouts,” Snyder said. “A lot of things have to fall in place, and we hope to (repeat as team champion). Right now, a lot of focus is on the steps we need to take to keep the girls healthy and safe. That’s a big priority for every team.”

Beaver returns five starters, including senior Anna Blum at No. 1 singles, from last year’s team that placed third at WPIALs and qualified for states.

Meanwhile, in Class AAA, there will be a new singles champion after the graduation of Fox Chapel’s Charlotte James. She went on to finish as the PIAA runner-up.

Those hoping to challenge for WPIAL gold include Bethel Park junior Mia Gorman, a PIAA qualifier last year after taking third at WPIALs. Kat Wang, a junior from Peters Township, just missed a trip to the state singles tournament, but she won WPIAL and PIAA doubles gold with sophomore Marra Bruce.

Wang and Bruce topped Latrobe’s returning duo of juniors Jenna Bell and Caroline Walters in the WPIAL finals.

Peters Township is the defending WPIAL champion. The Indians, with their 3-2 victory over Fox Chapel in last year’s finals, ended North Allegheny’s run of WPIAL Class AAA team titles at six.

Fox Chapel, however, continued on in the state tournament and edged District 1’s Downingtown West, 3-2, for its second PIAA crown.

“We are hoping for big things this year, and the girls have worked hard in the offseason to make it happen,” Fox Chapel coach Alex Slezak said. “All of the players in the WPIAL have been doing the best they can through all that has been going on with covid. It’s still too early to predict what could happen, but we’re just trying to control what we can control.”

Fox Chapel returns five starters, including junior standout Carissa Shepard. Senior Emily Fera, a starter as a freshman and sophomore, missed last year with a knee injury.

Peters Township, also with five starters back, is expected to again be in the Class AAA team mix along with others that include 2019 state qualifier Upper St. Clair and North Allegheny.

The Panthers didn’t have a senior in last year’s lineup, and the Tigers, the fourth-place finisher from the WPIAL a year ago, have five starters back, including senior captains Jenny Zhu and Claire Shao.

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

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