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Springdale pair strategic on many courts

Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch - Margo Corsetti, left, and Becca Kern, Springdale High School doubles pair that repeated as section champions, Friday September 27, 2013 at the Springdale courts in Cheswick.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Bill Shirley  |  For The Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Margo Corsetti, left, and Becca Kern, Springdale High School doubles pair that repeated as section champions, Friday September 27, 2013 at the Springdale courts in Cheswick.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch - Identical twins Catherine, left, and Emily Armstrong compete for the Valley tennis team.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Eric Felack  |  Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Identical twins Catherine, left, and Emily Armstrong compete for the Valley tennis team.

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Local qualifiers in WPIAL doubles tennis

The WPIAL doubles tournaments begin Wednesday. Class AA is at Keystone Oaks High School, and first-round matches begin at 1 p.m. Class AAA is at Norwin High School, and first-round matches begin at 12:30 p.m. Championship and consolation matches for Class AA and AAA are Thursday at North Allegheny High School.

Class AA: Burrell (Jaila Manga, Emma Hough); Springdale (Margo Corsetti, Becca Kern); Valley (Emily Armstrong, Catherine Armstrong).

Class AAA: Fox Chapel (Laurel Shymansky, Lacey Cohen).

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 12:03 a.m.

To appreciate the synergy between Springdale seniors Margo Corsetti and Becca Kern, one only needs to see them work together on the tennis court.

Or in a court room, for that matter.

Corsetti and Kern comprise one of three WPIAL section doubles championship pairs from the Alle-Kiski Valley that will compete in the WPIAL tournaments, which begin Wednesday. But the girls' lives crisscross elsewhere, too — at mock trial meetings, at Hometown High-Q competitions, at youth group events.

What links the seniors together more than their common activities are their appreciations of one another's smarts.

“Whether mock trial or tennis, it's still a lot of strategy,” Corsetti said. “I think we complement each other in a lot of activities.”

Said Kern: “Tennis carries over to school. … I don't think we ever bring out the bad in each other. We bring out the best.”

They're two-time champions of Section 3-AA. A year ago, they entered the section tournament as the No. 1 seed, secured the first section title in team history — Springdale's girls program started in 2007 — and then lost, 10-4, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA tournament.

Last week, they were the top seed again in the section tournament, and again, they came away with the championship.

“This year, the competition was even harder, so we didn't think we could win it again,” Kern said.

Corsetti and Kern start as the top two singles players in matches for Springdale. They've never paired up for doubles in a match for the Dynamos, but this is the third year they've joined together specifically for the doubles tournament.

Because of their on- and off-court familiarity, they don't fret about the prospect of partnering up with limited practice time as a tandem. Corsetti embraces the role of the baseline patroller, and Kern handles the responsibilities at the net. Both believe the secret to doubles tennis is prioritizing placement over power.

“We don't necessarily try to hit winners all the time,” Corsetti said. “We just try to play smart angles, and then when we see an opportunity, we go for it.”

Corsetti is in the WPIAL tournament for a third time. As a freshman, she qualified with an older sister, Mimi.

Another Alle-Kiski Valley sister act has thrived this fall, as Valley juniors and identical twins Emily and Catherine Armstrong claimed the Section 4-AA title last week.

Both now star as singles players — Emily took second in section singles, and Catherine placed third — but two years ago, they started as the team's No. 2 doubles pair in match play and went 14-0.

“I've missed it,” Emily Armstrong said. “We've had some good experiences and some bad experiences on the court. … Especially when I have my sister as my partner, it's easier to communicate. A pro is that I can say whatever I want, but that can also be a con. You don't get that when you're playing like a friend.”

Catherine takes her sister's harsher criticisms in stride. She understands her sister's high standards. She shares them, for the most part.

Both aspire to play tennis in college. There's no plan to play it together, though.

“We'd like to experience just being Emily and just being Catherine instead of the Armstrong twins,” Emily said.

In the meantime, they'll let their genetic links work in their favor. Both exited in the first round of this year's WPIAL Class AA singles tournament and want a deeper run in the doubles competition.

“Together, our force is so much greater than it was when we were playing singles,” Emily said. “Not only our ground strokes but our personalities.”

In Class AAA, Fox Chapel's phenom duo of Laurel Shymansky and Lacey Cohen will try to improve upon their previous year's performance, which concluded with a quarterfinal-round exit. The sophomores, who repeated as Section 3-AAA champions, start as singles players during matches, but through their eight-year friendship and numerous hours spent together at offseason tournaments, they possess a strong bond when on the same side of the net.

“We've been playing together for so long,” Shymansky said, “so there's really no confusion.”

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