Catanzarite plays with heavy heart, helps lead NA tennis to PIAA title
North Allegheny freshman Ava Catanzarite played both with a heavy heart and her heart out in the PIAA Class AAA girls team tennis tournament Oct. 27-28 in Hershey.
Catanzarite, the Tigers first singles player, won every set in all three of her matches to help the Tigers to their fourth PIAA title in five seasons.
Catanzarite competed after her maternal grandfather, William F. Scherfel Sr., of Harmony Township, Beaver County, died earlier in the week. His funeral was the day of the final.
Catanzarite said the death was not unexpected and her family persuaded her to play.
“I was overwhelmed thinking I was letting everyone down — my family and my team,” she said. “Just a few days before the tournament, my grandmother helped me make the decision to go to Hershey because my grandfather wanted me to be there.”
Team members wore blue ribbons as a tribute. Sophomore Ella Sinciline made a card and had every one sign it.
“The passing of Ava's grandfather was something we all felt as a team,” senior captain Katherine Ambrose said. “Over the course of the season, we've all become like a little family, and we're all very aware of one another and how each other (feels).”
Tigers coach Michelle Weniger believes the situation brought the squad closer together.
Catanzarite and junior captain Ashley Huang gave the Tigers, the five-time reigning WPIAL champions, a solid one-two punch.
Huang, the Tigers second singles player, also went undefeated in the tournament.
Sophomore Rebekah Rest in third singles, freshmen Carolyn Tsung and Claire Shao in first doubles and Ambrose and junior Riya Yadav in second doubles competed.
Huang said the Tigers were determined to regain the crown after placing second last season. The Tigers downed defending champion Harriton, of District 1, in the final, 4-1.
Catanzarite and Huang return to the same court Friday for the PIAA singles championship.
“I can't wait to get (there) again,” said Catanzarite, the WPIAL runner-up.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.