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Pine-Richland girls tennis qualifies for PIAA tournament for 1st time

| Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, 11:48 p.m.

A year after falling to Fox Chapel in the WPIAL Class AAA championship tournament consolation match, Pine-Richland girls tennis entered this season's postseason as a seventh seed and rattled off three consecutive victories to make the WPIAL Class AAA championship.

Though the Rams were swept 5-0 in the finals by North Allegheny, Pine-Richland's improbable run to the title match granted the program its first birth into the PIAA tournament.

“It really is thrilling, with it being the first time for the girls program at Pine-Richland,” girls tennis coach Janet Chappell said. “It's been a terrific year.

“There was one time when the team made it to the semifinals four years in a row, but that was back when only two teams made it to states, so we never got the chance. Now, three teams make it, so I was pretty sure once we made it to the semifinals, we'd have a good shot at making it.”

The state tournament will begin Oct. 24. Pine-Richland is slated to play the City League champion.

Although the accomplishment of qualifying for their first state tournament is enough to make this year's season a success, coach Chappell said the achievement is sweetened by how challenging the path was at the beginning of the WPIAL tournament.

“I knew we were very solid and good as a team, but when you look at the teams we beat to get to the finals — Upper St. Clair, Fox Chapel and Mt. Lebanon — those are three big tennis schools,” the Rams coach said.

“It wasn't that we couldn't do it. It was that you have to take it one match at a time, and each one was a very different match for us. Different people had to step up each time in order for us to win.”

Throughout the tournament, Pine-Richland's top singles player, Melissa Vizcardo, won every match until the championship. Junior Alyssa Sarver and senior Alice Qian also performed well as singles players for the Rams.

The team's doubles pairings of Katherine Stancil and Abby Nardulli, and Elise Malcho and Maryann Papulak also contributed at a high level, and Meredith Muschweck filled in and provided depth on the school's first state championship-qualifying girls tennis team.

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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