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Freshman standouts bolster North Allegheny tennis lineup

| Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, 3:51 p.m.
Freshman Ava Catanzarite plays first singles for the North Allegheny girls tennis team in 2017.
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Freshman Ava Catanzarite plays first singles for the North Allegheny girls tennis team in 2017.
Members of the North Allegheny varsity tennis team include, from left, Ali Harbaugh, Carolyn Tsung, Ashley Huang, Katherine Ambrose, Riya Yadav, Ava Cantanzarite, Claire Shao, Rebekah Rest, Ella Sinciline and Jenny Zhu.
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Members of the North Allegheny varsity tennis team include, from left, Ali Harbaugh, Carolyn Tsung, Ashley Huang, Katherine Ambrose, Riya Yadav, Ava Cantanzarite, Claire Shao, Rebekah Rest, Ella Sinciline and Jenny Zhu.
Carolyn Tsung is a freshman for the North Allegheny girls tennis team in 2017.
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Carolyn Tsung is a freshman for the North Allegheny girls tennis team in 2017.

The North Allegheny girls tennis team is set to defend its WPIAL Class AAA title with a nationally-ranked junior tennis player who recently was lauded for her devotion to the sport leading the way.

Freshman Ava Catanzarite is undefeated in first singles in the four matches she has played.

The Tigers are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Section 2-AAA. Among their victories was a shutout of Mt. Lebanon, the 2016 WPIAL Class AAA runner-up.

Catanzarite, 14, of Franklin Park ranks 21st in the United States Tennis Association Girls 14 combined standings. The Tennis Recruiting Network, which tracks prospective college players, ranks her first in Pennsylvania in her class.

Tigers coach Michelle Weniger said Catanzarite, a lefty, is an absolute dream.

“She's a very mature 14-year-old,” Weniger said. “(She is) a physically strong player (who) strikes the ball really hard and very quickly.”

Catanzarite recently was selected as one of 31 ambassadors for the United States Tennis Association Net Generation youth brand.

United States Tennis Association Middle States spokesman Michael Gladysz said players ages 5 to 18 were picked from across the country. Catanzarite and a player from New Jersey were the only ones chosen from the Middle States section.

Gladysz said the program connects coaches, schools, parents and players.

“She's a very talented and very positive, friendly, successful player,” he said. “We've had great experiences with her over the years.”

Catanzarite said she was honored to be selected.

“When I see the program advertised on TV, it really sinks in I'm helping to drive something very special,” she said.

Catanzarite is one of two freshman standouts for the Tigers.

Carolyn Tsung is undefeated in four doubles matches and one singles match.

Weniger said it not uncommon for first-year players to contribute.

Tina and Anna Li competed in 2013, when the Tigers won their first of four straight WPIAL titles and three PIAA crowns. The siblings went on to have successful careers with the squad and are now playing for Navy and Harvard, respectively.

Tsung, 14, of Franklin Park enjoys being on a team again after giving up soccer in sixth grade to focus on tennis.

“I am so happy to have an awesome group of teammates who are focused, encouraging and a lot of fun to be around,” she said.

Senior captain Katherine Ambrose, 17, of Bradford Woods is impressed by the freshmen and said they are easygoing.

Junior captain Ashley Huang, senior Ali Harbaugh, sophomore Rebekah Rest, freshman Claire Chao, sophomore Ella Sinciline, junior Riya Yadav and freshman Jenny Zhu also play for the Tigers, the PIAA runner-up last season.

Huang won first singles in the one match Catanzarite did not play.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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