Franklin Park's Catanzarite claims USTA Gold Ball in Orlando
After a string of second- and third-place finishes, Franklin Park junior tennis player Ava Catanzarite ended the year on top.
Catanzarite, 16, and her partner, Avery Durham, of South Carolina, took first place in girls 16 doubles at the U.S. Tennis Association National Winter Championships on Dec. 29-Jan. 4 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
She earned her first Gold Ball, which the USTA awards to national champions.
“I wanted to win a Gold Ball before I graduated high school,” said Catanzarite, a sophomore who takes academic courses online while attending the Gomez Tennis Academy in Naples, Fla. “I was very determined and worked so hard training for this moment.”
The top seed, Catanzarite and Durham rallied to beat the ninth seed in the quarterfinals. Their other victories came by wider margins.
They were among 64 teams.
“Some people view the one seed as pressure, but my partner and I viewed it as the exact opposite,” said Catanzarite, who placed second in the 2017 WPIAL Class AAA singles championship for North Allegheny. “We looked at it as a huge opportunity and turned the pressure into confidence.”
Catanzarite earned a Bronze Ball at the National Indoor Championships in November and a Silver Ball at the Girls’ 16 National Clay Court Championships in July.
Rene Gomez, the head pro and tennis director at the academy Catanzarite has been going to since the fall, said training on a consistent basis has aided Catanzarite.
“The daily routine helps her to be ready for every tournament,” he said.
Gomez said Catanzarite will play a combination of national and International Tennis Federation tournaments in the spring to build her ITF junior ranking.
In only her second ITF Junior Circuit tournament and first Grade A event, Catanzarite came in second at the Orange Bowl International championships in Plantation, Fla. in early Dec.
She is the second member of her family to earn a national title of some kind. Her father played on Westminster NAIA Division II football champion teams in 1988 and 1989.
Jeff Catanzarite, a member of the Titan Sports Hall of Fame who ranks among the school’s all-time top defenders, admires his daughter’s dedication.
“Ava’s accomplishments far exceed anything that I achieved in college football due to the individualized nature of tennis,” he said. “She’s been training most of her lifetime (and) that’s been six days a week.
“That far exceeds my commitment to football.”
Catanzarite, who made it to the Round of 32 in singles, was one of two northern Allegheny County players to compete. North Allegheny senior Ashley Huang, of Marshall, a Cornell recruit, reached the Round of 64 in girls 18 singles and doubles.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.