North Allegheny duo reaches PIAA semifinals
HERSHEY — North Allegheny girls tennis coach Michelle Weniger thought her team's season ended Tuesday. She made the decision then that Anna Li couldn't compete in the PIAA Class AAA doubles tournament because of an ankle injury suffered three days earlier.
But North Allegheny athletic director Bob Bozzuto called with good news.
“You're going to Hershey,” he told her. “You're able to substitute.”
Weniger didn't believe him at first — she didn't know teams were allowed to substitute a player if they notified the PIAA in time — but decided to fill the spot with Anna's sister, No. 3 singles player Tina Li.
She and Maddy Adams won twice Friday to advance to Saturday morning's semifinals, where they'll play Parkland's Jenna Peng and TuQuyen Pham at Hershey Racquet Club.
The success came after just one day of practice.
“They have never really been together on the court as a doubles team,” Weniger said. “You just hope and pray they jell. The practice was flawless. They played beautifully.”
Their success is bittersweet for Li.
“It was really hard for (Anna) because she worked hard to get to here,” Tina said. “Since she's my sister, I felt really bad for her. But she was … happy to let me (replace her).”
Fox Chapel sophomores Lauren Shymansky and Lacey Cohen also qualified for the doubles semifinals, which begin at 11 a.m.
Pine Richland's Marlys Bridgham and Mt. Lebanon's Callie Frey qualified for the Class AAA semifinal round in singles.
Obama Academy's Swata Alagar lost in the first round.
Rebuilding begins for Sewickley Academy
Sewickley Academy coach Whitney Snyder faced a challenge last Saturday after his Panthers lost in the team tournament semifinals.
He had stressed they focus on the team tournament all season, but now, they needed to rebound for the Class AA singles and doubles tournaments Friday.
“I said it's a pride thing,” Snyder said. “You've been on the team four years, and you want to leave on a positive note. Even if you lose to a better player, you want to let that person know you're competing the whole time and that you're not phoning it in.”
The Panthers' top two singles players, Samantha Gohh and Sidney Miggantz, responded with first-round wins, as did the No. 1 doubles team of Amy Cheng and Jappman Monga, before all lost in the quarterfinals.
The losses end their careers and force a drastic turnover.
Five of the top seven Panthers are seniors, including the four who played Friday.
“It's a tribute to the program that four girls from one class get to quarterfinals of state,” Snyder said. “I'll be sad to see them go, but it's something I'll remember.”
Greensburg Central Catholic freshman Michaela Kluska reached the quarterfinals, where she lost to Wilson's Tyra Ott 6-3, 6-4.
The doubles teams of Moriah Bridges and Mattie Taylor from Beaver and Greensburg Central Catholic's Alyvia Kluska and Jordan Smithberger lost in the first round.
The semifinals and finals will wrap up Saturday.
Daniel Paulling is a freelance writer.