Pitt tennis team to compete for national title
In their first year as members, an ex-City League singles champion and a former WPIAL doubles standout helped the Pitt club team to its first United States Tennis Association On Campus Middle States Section title last month at Mercer County Park in New Jersey.
Hannah Famili, a freshman from Shadyside who won City League girls singles titles as a freshman and sophomore at Allderdice, lost 4-6 in women’s singles, but her points were enough to give the Panthers an edge in a 26-23 decision over Penn State in the final.
Claire Healy, a junior from Mt. Lebanon, won in doubles with sophomore Rithika Reddy of Long Island, N.Y., 6-5.
By winning, the Panthers qualified for the national championship April 9-11 in Cary, N.C. Penn State and third and fourth place Carnegie Mellon and Penn also received bids.
One of 24 coed teams representing 18 colleges from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, Pitt beat Drexel, Temple, Penn and a second team from Penn State to reach the section final.
Coach Craig Perry said Famili and Healy, each 4-1 in the tournament, made a difference for the Panthers.
“(Women) were much better this year; Hannah and Claire improved the quality of play,” said Perry, the director of tennis at the Fox Chapel Golf Club retained by Pitt.
Perry expects the Panthers to be a serious contender for the national championship.
“We really have a good possibility (of winning) if we work hard,” said Healy, 21, a section champion and WPIAL Class AAA doubles semifinalist at Mt. Lebanon in 2009. “We’re all really strong.”
Famili, 18, said competition has been tougher than expected.
“Penn State played some great tennis (in the section final),” Famili said. “That was my favorite match, although I lost.”
Club vice president Brian Rubin said Famili and Healy were among about 100 men and women who tried out for the team, which was founded in 2006. Most have high school and United States Tennis Association tournament experience, he said.
“There are only 12 spots, so it is extremely competitive,” said Rubin, a junior from Erie. “(Everyone) was at least a top player on their high school (team).”
Healy, who delayed trying out to focus on academics, is happy she is a member.
“It’s a stress reliever and pure fun,” said Healy, who is studying chemistry and hopes to be a physician.
Tom Benic, past president of the Middle States Allegheny Mountain District, said club tennis is less demanding than varsity.
“Club tennis is primarily (recreational) and social with perhaps a practice or match once or twice a week,” he said. “Varsity tennis, by contrast, takes a serious time commitment.
“You really have to be talented and committed (to play).”
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.