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Norwin's Santilli set to begin tennis title defense

| Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, 7:54 p.m.
Norwin tennis player Maria Santilli will continue her career at Cincinnati.
Norwin tennis player Maria Santilli will continue her career at Cincinnati.

Norwin senior Maria Santilli will be striving for perfection again as a member of the Knights girls tennis team.

Santilli did not drop a set in winning the 2016-17 Section 1-AAA, WPIAL and PIAA singles crowns.

“I would love to see her repeat all (that),” Knights coach Ryan Hornick said. “It will be hard, but if anyone can do it, it would be Maria.”

Santilli, a Cincinnati recruit, worked hard in the offseason.

She played in a handful of United States Tennis Association junior tournaments, and exercised with the help of a trainer.

She made it to the round of 128 players in the USTA Girls 18 and Girls 16 National Championships in singles and the round of 64 in doubles in early August.

She ranks 258th in the USTA Girls 18 Combined standings.

The Tennis Recruiting Network, which tracks prospective college players, ranked her second in the state.

“At this point in my career, I need to continue to do my best on and off the court to prepare myself for college tennis,” she said.

Santilli hopes to carry the Knights to the Section 1-AAA title. They kick off the campaign Wednesday in a section match against Armstrong.

Their best showing in recent seasons was second place in 2014-15, when they lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Junior Anna Lanyi, sophomore Ashley Pesarsick, senior Lauren Hartner and senior Dana Ewing are other players.

Lanyi advanced to the quarterfinals of the section singles tournament last season.

“We have a lot of talent, excellent team chemistry and one of the best collective work ethics I have seen,” Hornick said. “We will see what all of that means at the end of the season.”

Hornick wants to enjoy Santilli's final season with the squad.

“In a few months, it will be bittersweet to look back on everything she has accomplished,” he said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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