North Allegheny girls defend state team tennis title
HERSHEY — Shady Side Academy threw its best game at North Allegheny, but again; it was not enough.
In an afternoon of tennis dominated by WPIAL teams, the Tigers defended their PIAA Class AAA girls team title with a 3-1 win over the Indians on Saturday at Hershey Racquet Club.
Three of the final four teams in the Class AAA bracket were WPIAL clubs — Mt. Lebanon was the third. The Tigers beat the Blue Devils, 4-0, in the morning session to reach the finals. Shady Side Academy beat District 1 champ Conestoga, 3-1, in the other semifinal.
North Allegheny beat Shady Side Academy for the third time in three meetings this season to claim its third state title in seven seasons. The Tigers also won the crown in 2008, when they defeated Shady Side Academy.
North Allegheny veteran coach Michelle Weniger has been there for all of them.
“I am extremely proud of them and the effort they put on the court since Aug. 11,” she said. “That was long time ago. But once you hit the postseason, the tempo is picked up, the level is picked up, so everyone’s game has to do the same.
“There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of indirect pressure. I try to have tunnel vision.”
Weniger was not surprised by her team’s opponent in the finals.
“We knew that if we made it to the championship round, we had a strong feeling it was going to be Shady Side,” she said. “Their players are well-trained, and they’re fighters.”
North Allegheny, which beat Shady Side in the WPIAL finals earlier this month, won at doubles and No. 3 singles to clinch the rematch.
Tristyn Maalouf and Catherine Liu beat Shady Side Academy’s Devin Gramley and Mara Barron, 6-0, 6-2, at No. 1 doubles for the match’s first point.
Ananya Dua returned the favor for the Indians with a 6-1, 6-3 win at top singles, before North Allegheny’s Eugenia Lee clipped Shady Side’s Lindsey Miller, 6-2, 6-1, at No. 3 singles.
NA’s Sydney Boyd and Catherine Zhang brought the title home moments later with a 6-1, 7-5 triumph at No. 2 doubles over Maria Jouia and Amy Donahue. The match at No. 2 singles between North Allegheny’s Tina Li and Shady Side’s Emma Perelman was abandoned with the score tied at one set apiece.
With his program making its fifth finals appearance in 15 years (now 2-3 all-time), Shady Side coach Jeff Miller was proud of the effort put forth from his Class AA-sized program.
“What else can you say?” he said. “They’re better than us. We played them three times, and they beat us three times. So as much as we tried to win and for as hard as we played, we still lost to them three times.”
Jeff Dewees is a freelance writer.