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Valley's Armstrong twins hope WPIAL tennis tournament is twice as nice

Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Identical twins Catherine, left, and Emily Armstrong compete for the Valley tennis team.

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WPIAL tennis singles championships

When: 11 a.m. Wednesday (early rounds); 2:30 p.m. Thursday (consolation finals and finals)

Where: Keystone Oaks (Class AA), Norwin (Class AAA)

Local qualifiers: Class AAA: Fox Chapel: Laurel Shymansky; Class AA: Valley: Catherine Armstrong, Emily Armstrong; Springdale: Margo Corsetti, Becca Kern

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 12:27 a.m.

Valley's tennis team has opponents seeing doubles.

Or singles, depending on what juniors Emily and Catherine Armstrong are playing that day.

The identical twin sisters have surged into the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament for the first time and begin their championship quest Wednesday at Keystone Oaks.

Here's something twice as interesting: They'll pair up for the Section 4-AA doubles tournament that begins Sept. 25. They haven't played doubles since they were freshmen, their first year of competitive tennis.

Emily plays in the No. 1 spot, and Catherine at No. 2. Emily finished second and Catherine third in the section singles tournament.

Although they haven't played doubles in a couple of years — they went 14-0 together — their tendencies remain intact.

“We can know what we're saying without saying it,” Catherine said. “We just look at each other; stay in your alley. Our games complement each other.”

Once interested in volleyball, they serve and volley year-round, even practicing with the boys team in the spring.

Valley coach Rachael Link said the girls aren't playing doubles simply because they're sisters. It's not some gesture that seems appropriate. The Armstrongs can play.

“They're legitimately our No. 1 and 2 (players),” Link said. “They are very good players and keep getting better.”

Telling the girls apart is the challenge. Just ask former classmates from, say, second grade. That's when the girls pulled an April Fools' prank only twins could conjure.

Beating trouble to the punch by getting permission from the principal the night before, they switched classrooms. For hours, nobody knew the difference. Advantage: Armstrongs.

“Until our nemesis, this one boy, snitched,” Catherine said. “We had them going.”

“Em” and “Cat,” though, are different in a number of ways.

Catherine has shorter hair — “It's 9 inches shorter,” Catherine said — and their playing styles also differ. Catherine said she delivers a high-bounce serve, and Emily's comes in low. And while Catherine relies on her forehand, Emily thrives with her backhand.

“We're both good at volleys,” Emily said. “Credit that to Ms. Link. She is a net monster. Our team loves her.”

Said Link: “I have them both in AP English, too. They have different personalities.”

The girls' best friends, Nick and Matt Boehm, also are twins.

“They finish our sentences, and sometimes we finish theirs,” Catherine said. “Emily's the calmer one. I like to talk and get to know the person I am playing.”

Emily said the telepathic connection you hear about twins is real.

“One time we were sitting at the dinner table, and I told her to pick a number between 1 and 10,” Emily said. “She looked right at me and got it on the first guess. We did it several times and she kept guessing right. Then we did 1 to 100 and she kept getting that right, too. We did this for like a half an hour. Finally, she got one wrong. My number was 48. She picked 84.”

The Armstrongs have no other siblings, but Catherine said their golden retriever, Daisy, knows who's who.

“We love our dog,” Catherine said. “Her favorite toy is a tennis ball.”

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