Allegheny Aces, Pitt Factor place in top 5 at team tennis section championship
Two coed teams containing players from Western Pennsylvania competed at the United States Tennis Association Middle States Junior Team Tennis Section Championship in Mercer County, N.J. last month.
The Allegheny Aces and the Pitt Factor placed third and fifth, respectively, of five teams in the advanced players 14-and-under age division.
The two teams qualified at Allegheny Mountain District events, organizer Deb Hazlett said.
United States Tennis Association Team Tennis is a recreational league for children up to the age of 18 and of all playing abilities, according to the Middle States website. Players participate in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Section winners advance to the national championships.
Anna Baloh, Sanjit Beriwal, Chase Davidson, Saarang Mulukutla, Anna Rush, Evelyn Safar and Christina Walton played for the Allegheny Aces.
Alexis Montana, Mia Gorman, Bridget Zimmerman, Jayanth Kashyap, Jenna Bell, Katalina Wang, Luke Gladden, Matthew Prenovitz and Zachary Palko were on Pitt Factor.
Allegheny Aces coach John Rush and Pitt Factor coach Phil Palko said it was rare for boys and girls to compete together.
“There are not a lot of opportunities for team tennis,” Palko said.
Davidson, who won a tournament sportsmanship award, enjoyed playing doubles.
“I play a lot of singles, but don't (get to) play doubles (often),” said Davidson, 13, of Bradford Woods, adding the experience improved his communication skills.
Mulukutla, 14, of Marshall competed in mixed doubles for the first time.
“The team concept was really nice,” Mulukutla said. “You had other people to rely on if you were not having the best day.”
Beriwal, 13, of Marshall is a more versatile player after participating.
“I had the chance to improve on essentially all parts of the game,” Beriwal said. “I had never played so many hours of tennis in one day under so much pressure.”
Anna Rush, 13, of Upper St. Clair looks forward to qualifying again next year.
“I had a great time,” she said. “We had fun cheering each other on and hitting. We were able to play against some really good teams.”
“The (Western Pennsylvania) teams did a great job,” Middle States spokesman Michael Gladysz said. “The players were positive, friendly (and) had fun.”
The two squads were among three from the Allegheny Mountain District that qualified for championship events this summer.
An 18-and-under team placed 14th of 16 teams at the World Team Tennis Junior Nationals in San Diego.
Derek Chen, Ben Vinarski, Ryan Stentz, Caitlyn Shultz, Elena Prenovitz and Kristi Riley competed, coach Hank Hughes said. Jason Stentz was an alternate.
Chen, 18, of Cranberry played for the third consecutive year.
Dickinson College coach James Kohr expects that experience to help Chen as a freshman on the Red Devils' men's team in the fall.
“His team tennis experience should have prepared him to control his emotions during competition,” Kohr said.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.