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Sewickley Academy, Quaker Valley tennis teams advance to playoffs

| Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, 3:06 p.m.
Emily Ward, a senior, returns a volley during Sewickley Academy girls tennis practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, at the courts at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Emily Ward, a senior, returns a volley during Sewickley Academy girls tennis practice Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, at the courts at Nichols Field in Edgeworth.

The Sewickley Academy girls tennis team looks forward to winning its second WPIAL title in three seasons at the WPIAL Class AA team tournament that began Wednesday and ends next week.

The Panthers qualified by taking first place in Section 4-AA with an 8-0 record.

Quaker Valley, the fourth-place team in Section 2-AA, also advanced.

Seniors Emily Ward, Caroline Becker and McKayla Cox play singles for Sewickley Academy.

Sophomore Alina Mattson and senior Morgan Recker compete in first doubles, and sophomore Lydia Elste and junior Olivia McLeod or senior Ciara Donohue form the second doubles team.

“The girls are coming together nicely (and) getting better (in) each match,” Panthers coach Whitney Snyder said.

Ward, 17, who lives in Beaver, said the Panthers gained confidence by going undefeated in the section.

“The goal is to always win WPIALs,” she said. “We are going to focus on one match at a time and, hopefully, reach the finals again.”

The Panthers placed second to Beaver last season after donning the WPIAL crown in 2014. They have been WPIAL champions four times since 2008.

Becker, 17, of Sewickley, hopes to be a role model.

“I want our new players to feel the same excitement our returning players feel about going into playoffs,” she said.

Quaker Valley (5-3 in Section 2-AA) is rebuilding and was happy just to earn a playoff berth.

“Going into the tournament as fourth in our section will mean a really tough draw for us,” Quakers coach Christi Hays said. “But we are ready to give it all we have.”

Junior Zoe Bojalad, sophomore Sydney Schultz, junior Chloe Becotte-McMullen, senior Grace Merriman and junior Olivia Albert have been standouts, Hays said.

Merriman was undefeated in section singles play after moving from doubles halfway through the season.

Sophomore Anna McSweeney has been a pleasant surprise playing at No. 3 singles.

“This team has (clicked) from the start,” said Albert, 16, of Edgeworth. “We've been working hard since Day 1.”

“It is refreshing to be able to play with a group of motivated girls, and be able to have as much fun as we do along the way,” said Merriman, 17, of Sewickley.

Quaker Valley was third in the WPIAL and eliminated early from the PIAA playoffs last year.

Sewickley Academy was a PIAA semifinalist in 2015.

Sewickley Academy was scheduled to play Mt. Pleasant in the first round, and QV was to play at South Park.

With a victory, Sewickley Academy would play the Greensburg Central Catholic-Derry survivor Thursday in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Quaker Valley would advance to play Indiana or Southmoreland with a win.

Beaver earned the top seed. The quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday.

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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