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Freshman players help Sewickley Academy tennis excel

| Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, 5:51 p.m.
Sewickley Academy's Christina Walton questions an out call by Derry Area opponent Ekaterina Trimble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Christina Walton questions an out call by Derry Area opponent Ekaterina Trimble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Christina Walton returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Ekaterina Trimble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Christina Walton returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Ekaterina Trimble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Christina Walton returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Ekaterina Trimble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Christina Walton returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Ekaterina Trimble during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Evelyn Safar returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Juliet Tatone during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Evelyn Safar returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Juliet Tatone during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Evelyn Safar returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Juliet Tatone during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Evelyn Safar returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Juliet Tatone during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Simran Bedi returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Amber Sterrett during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Simran Bedi returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Amber Sterrett during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Simran Bedi returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Amber Sterrett during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Simran Bedi returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Amber Sterrett during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Simran Bedi serves during a match against Derry Area's Amber Sterrett during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Simran Bedi serves during a match against Derry Area's Amber Sterrett during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Sewickley Academy's Evelyn Safar returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Juliet Tatone during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy's Evelyn Safar returns a volley during a match against Derry Area's Juliet Tatone during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA girls team tennis championship Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Sewickley Academy.
Members of the 2017 Sewickely Academy girls tennis team include, from left, coach Whitney Snyder, Christina Walton, Emma DeSantis, Victoria Keller, Olivia McLeod, Lydia Elste, Alina Mattson, Evelyn Safar, Simran Bedi and Aleena Purewal.
Submitted
Members of the 2017 Sewickely Academy girls tennis team include, from left, coach Whitney Snyder, Christina Walton, Emma DeSantis, Victoria Keller, Olivia McLeod, Lydia Elste, Alina Mattson, Evelyn Safar, Simran Bedi and Aleena Purewal.
Meme Malcolm helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Submitted
Meme Malcolm helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Martha Pangburn helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Submitted
Martha Pangburn helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Emily Sanders helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Submitted
Emily Sanders helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Martha Pangburn helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
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Martha Pangburn helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Sydney Schultz helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
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Sydney Schultz helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Abby Sanders helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.
Submitted
Abby Sanders helped Quaker Valley reach the 2017 WPIAL girls tennis playoffs.

The Sewickley Academy girls tennis team (13-4) is making a playoff run with its youngest team in a quarter century.

The Panthers, who went undefeated in Section 4-AA, shut out Derry and Indiana in the first two rounds of the WPIAL Class AA championship tournament. They were set to meet Greensburg Central Catholic in the semifinals Monday, with the winner taking on Neshannock or Knoch in the final Wednesday.

Six Sewickley Academy players are freshmen — the most the squad has had since Panthers coach Whitney Snyder took the helm in 1992, he said.

Evelyn Safar, Simran Bedi and Christina Walton start in singles and Victoria Keller in doubles, with Aleena Purewal and Emma DeSantis in reserve.

Senior Lydia Elste, junior Alina Mattson and senior Olivia McLeod are starting doubles players.

Snyder is impressed by the leadership of Mattson and Elste, the team captains.

Mattson said with so many newcomers, she knew she and Elste had to be role models.

Safar said it has worked.

“I'm never afraid to turn to the upperclassmen for help,” she said.

Elste said she tries to lighten the mood before a big match.

“I remind them they have worked for this, and we are all there (for) each other,” she said.

Bedi said the Panthers bonded, and she could not ask for a better team.

The Panthers last won the WPIAL crown in 2014. They have been WPIAL champions four times since 2008.

Quaker Valley (10-5) was headed to a showdown with Sewickley Academy before bowing to Greensburg Central Catholic, 5-0, in the quarterfinals.

The Quakers, the third-place team in Section 2-AA, upset Ellis, 3-2, in the first round.

“We pretty much maxed out,” Quakers coach Christi Hays said.

Junior Sydney Schultz, senior Chloe Becotte-McMullen and junior Anna McSweeney played singles for the Quakers, and senior Olivia Albert and juniors Martha Pangburn, Meme Malcolm and Abby McGinley doubles.

Freshman Emily Sanders and junior Abby Sanders, who came back from a leg injury, provided backup.

Albert was proud how far the team came.

“I don't think any of us expected to get this far,” she said.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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