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Sister tandem returns to lead Greensburg C.C. tennis

| Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Michaela Kluska hits a few tennis balls at the tennis court near their home Sept. 13, 2013, near Greensburg.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Alyvia Kluska hits a few tennis balls at the tennis court near their home Sept. 13, 2013, near Greensburg.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Dr. Michael Kluska with his daughters Michaela Kluska, left, and Alyvia Kluska on September 13, 2013, at the tennis court near their home near Greensburg.

The Kluska sisters of Greensburg Central Catholic admit they're opposites, but they manage to complement each other well.

In workouts like the Centurions' Thursday practice at the Greensburg Racquet Club, Michaela, a sophomore and Alyvia, a junior, are near-perfect playing partners, each with her own advantages to test the other. They agree Michaela is stronger with groundstrokes, while Alyvia has the upper hand when it comes to serving.

Off the court, they finish each other's sentences, mentioning they've been hitting together since they first started playing tennis at 6 and 7 years old, respectively. It was then that their father, Michael, who played collegiately at Washington & Jefferson, started coaching them.

“We practice with each other pretty much every single day,” Michaela said.

“It goes back and forth. We always play sets, we have since we first started, so it's just normal for us now,” added Alyvia.

Asked about their impression of how the season finished for them last year, the Kluskas said the same thing: They performed well, but can do better, starting Monday, which marks the start of official matches for WPIAL girls tennis.

After taking second place in the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament and reaching the quarterfinals of the 2012 PIAA tournament, Alyvia lost her first postseason match a round earlier in 2013 to Samantha Gohh of state semifinalist Sewickley Academy.

Michaela also lost in the WPIAL Class AA semifinals, falling in two sets to Sewickley's Sidney Miggantz.

With the WPIAL consolation match slated to be a Kluska-Kluska showdown, a forfeit sent Michaela to the PIAA finals, where she likewise reached the quarterfinal round.

“Honestly, I wasn't as focused last year as I was my freshman year,” Alyvia said. “We put ourselves in a bad situation because then we were both in for third and fourth (in the WPIAL championship).”

The Kluskas are confident their work over the summer can help their team reach new heights in 2014. GCC defeated Sewickley Academy, 3-2, to win the WPIAL Class AA team tournament last year, but on a team without a senior, Michaela and Alyvia Kluska will be looked on to lead the Centurions beyond their 2013 state quarterfinal appearance.

“They work well together, they help each other,” said Tony Splendore, who moves to GCC after a 42-year career coaching tennis at Mt. Pleasant. “I've found the Kluska girls have been hitting with the other kids on the team, and they've been good team leaders.”

The sisters said they remember competing against Splendore's Mt. Pleasant team last year. Now that he's a Centurion, there are no hard feelings, just shared title hopes.

“We have high goals set for this year, and we've been working and training really hard,” Alyvia said. “We have a great team this year.”

North Allegheny back for more

North Allegheny coach Michelle Weniger said Wednesday would be her first and last mention of the Tigers' 2013 Class AAA state title.

“I said what we accomplished last year was really quite a feat, but they have to remember that that was last year,” Weniger said. “Of course everybody wants to beat the WPIAL champions and the state champions, but we basically have to forget that that happened, just take it one match at a time and start fresh.”

The Tigers lose last year's No. 1 singles player Maddy Adams but bring back Nos. 2 and 3 singles players Anna and Tina Li as well as key doubles players like junior Tristyn Maalouf and seniors Sydney Boyd and Catherine Zhang. They also add a talented freshman in Eugenia Lee.

“It's a new year, so we have to try just as hard as last year and hopefully we'll be lucky,” Anna Li said. “Last year everything fell into place, and hopefully, it will this year, too.”

Shymansky returns after doubles title

Fox Chapel fell in the quarterfinal round of the WPIAL Class AAA championship a year ago and incoming junior Laurel Shymansky ended her 2013 singles season in the same spot.

Shymansky's run to the PIAA Class AAA title with partner Lacy Cohen, however, was a bright spot, one Shymansky and Fox Chapel coach Alex Slezak said they hope will catapult the Foxes to even more success in 2014.

“The junior year's the year, that's the year where they springboard,” Slezak said. “It's nice to be able to use the doubles (championship) to springboard in the singles, and we can build the team around those accomplishments.”

Andrew Erickson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at aerickson@tribweb.com.

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