Gateway's Memije dominates Section 3 singles
For the first time since 2002, a Gateway girls tennis player qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA singles championship tournament.
Gators sophomore Sammy Memije got the job done in dominating fashion last week in winning the Section 3 tournament.
The WPIAL tournament was to begin Wednesday at Norwin High School, and Memije said she was excited to face all of the top competition.
“I've played a lot of them in (junior) tournaments,” Memije said right after she upended Ananya Dua, Shady Side Academy's No. 1 singles player, 6-1, 6-0, in the section finals last week.
“It will be fun to see what I can do.”
The WPIAL championship and consolation matches for AAA are slated for Thursday afternoon at North Allegheny High School.
The last Gateway tennis player to make the WPIAL tournament was Jessica Brockway, and she did it three years in a row from 2000 to 2002.
The section tournament challenged the top players because of both bad weather and electricity.
The tournament started Sept. 11 outside at Fox Chapel High School, but bad weather pushed the action inside to the Alpha Tennis and Fitness Club in Harmar.
A power outage at the club caused the suspension of the semifinal match between Dua and Fox Chapel's Laurel Shymansky.
Memije took care of Shady Side Academy's Emma Perelman, 6-0, 6-1, in the other semifinal.
Another power outage at the club the next day pushed the resumption of Dua and Shymansky's semifinal match back outside to Fox Chapel High School.
Dua rallied in the third set to win the match right before more bad weather moved in.
The championship and consolation matches were moved back inside after power was restored to Alpha.
Memije and Dua train together, and, Memije said, the two know each other's games well.
“There's really not many secrets when we play,” Memije said.
Memije raced out to a 4-0 lead in set one, but suffered a loss in game five.
“I had to move on from that game and refocus,” she said. “(Dua) plays well when she's down. I knew she wouldn't give up. I moved well (in the match) and made her make errors.”
Memije won the final eight games of the match to win in straight sets.
She lost only two games in four section-tournament matches.
“Sammy plays with a lot of determination and composure,” Gateway head coach Rochelle Seilhamer said.
Memije started playing tennis at age nine, and she also holds a busy junior tennis schedule — with both practices and tournaments — throughout the year.
She didn't play for Gateway as a freshman because of her junior schedule, but, she said, she's glad to have been able to coordinate a schedule between her junior tennis, Gateway tennis and school.
Memije said she can't go back and play as a freshman, but she knows she can make an impact the rest of this season and in both her junior and senior years.
She also said she can be an ambassador for younger aspiring tennis players in the area, especially in the Gateway School District.
“During junior tennis tournaments, she's all alone out there,” Seilhamer said.
“At Gateway, she's part of a team, and she likes that.”
Seilhamer said Memije has had an impact on her Gators teammates.
“She says she's going to (junior) practice after a Gateway practice or match,” Seilhamer said. “They are amazed at that. They see that dedication.”
Memije also is undefeated in section dual matches this season. She didn't play in Gateway's match with Shady Side Academy on Sept. 6.
Gateway's other entrant in the section singles tournament, Kristen Ku, suffered a first-round loss to Perelman.
As a team, the Gators improved to 3-4 in section play with a 3-2 victory over Penn Hills on Friday.
Gateway fell to section foe Shaler on Monday, 4-1, and Memije scored the win for the Gators at No. 1 singles.
The Gators return to section action Friday at 3:30 p.m. at McKeesport.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.