North Allegheny girls tennis champs have a bright future
The future is looking bright for the North Allegheny girls tennis program.
After winning their first WPIAL title and second PIAA state title in school history this season, it shouldn't come as a surprise if the young Tigers continue to fill the school's trophy case and hang banners in the gym.
“After we secured the win against Shady Side (Academy), one of my first contacts was to my athletic director (Bob Bozzuto),” coach Michelle Weniger said about the AAA championship game. “I texted him and said, ‘We won. Can we get our banner now?'
“He said, ‘I'm ordering it right now.' It was one of those moments that as a coach I will never forget.”
Most teams that cruise through Class AAA WPIAL and state competition are forced to restock their rosters. That won't be the case with this North Allegheny team. The Tigers will have to replace seniors Maddy Adams and Jenn Hoffman, but a solid, youthful foundation will alleviate the challenge.
Freshman twin sisters Anna and Tina Li stepped up playing as the No. 2 and 3 singles line this year, and, Weniger said, additional practice coupled with postseason experience will prove vital to the pair.
“What a fantastic addition to our program to have two sisters that are very talented, very strong physically and mentally,” she said. “They played solid for us when plugged in, and I had no doubt that if we avoided injuries that they would help carry us.”
This season's No. 2 doubles team of Catherine Zhang and Sydney Boyd will enter their senior years as experienced leaders who will continue to pave the way for the upcoming class. Both Zhang and Boyd said they can't wait to get back on the court and add on to the North Allegheny tradition.
“I think next year as a senior, the biggest thing is to keep the team's spirit up,” Zhang said. “That's one of the things that brought us together this year. With every match, there wasn't a time we weren't supporting each other.”
Added Boyd: “I think we have a couple girls on the team this year that were unsure about how they would be, but the fact that we won the WPIAL and came out of the state is a definite good thing.
“We were so sad when it was over. We can't wait to come back next year and try it again.”
Rounding out the starting rotation was sophomore Tristyn Maalouf — another talented youngster Weniger has high hopes for in the years to come.
“With her age, between this year and next year, she will become a stronger, obviously more seasoned tennis player based on the experience she had with high school tennis,” she said. “She's one of those girls who never puts the racquet down.
“We will be very, very fortunate to have her return for years to come.”
Weniger said she realizes that there's a bull's-eye that comes with being the champion. The team, however, showed a mental toughness all season that has her mind at ease knowing the players can compete at the highest level, she said.
“They're a good mix of personalities on the team and so I think that they will welcome the challenge,” Weniger said. “I think they will take the opportunity during the offseason to improve their games because they did go to states and know that the level of competition is accelerated when you are playing the best in the state.
“If teams say a target is on our chest, we're just going to have play our best tennis.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.