HARMARVILLE –Kat Wang needed inspiration. Her back hurt. She had already taken a few doses of Motrin. Plus, she had lost seven straight games to find herself floundering in the biggest tennis match of her life.
With rousing cheers from her teammates, Wang pulled it together. After splitting sets with Carissa Shepard, 6-3, 0-6, the sophomore won the third, 6-3, and sealed the WPIAL Class AAA girls team tennis championship for Peters Township. The Indians edged Fox Chapel, 3-2, in the finals played Thursday at the Alpha Tennis Club.
“I was trying to stay as calm as possible but losing that many games in a row is pretty discouraging,” said Wang. “After the changeover, when it was 0-1 in the third set, I just looked at my team and I knew I had to do it for them. I have to fight for them.
“The support from my teammates was amazing. If they were not here, I would have crashed. They were so full of support that I would have totally felt terrible if I had let them down. I would have been more upset.”
From the get-go, things were upsetting for the Indians. Because of inclement weather, the finals were not only moved indoors, they were postponed a day. Also, since Duquesne University was using the tennis center for practice, the WPIAL could not make full use of all courts. Three courts were available and lots were drawn to decide which matches would go on the court first. No. 1 and No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles played first, and when a court cleared the No. 2 doubles took the spot, leaving Wang at No. 2 singles to play the final and decisive match.
“I really wanted to play first just to get it over with,” Wang said. “This was really the most pressure I have felt in my life so I just really wished I had played first.”
Regardless, PT coach Phyllis DeRienzo expected the match to be decided at No. 2 singles because Fox Chapel had the WPIAL singles champion – Charlotte James defeated freshman Marra Bruce, 6-2, 6-1 – and the Indians had strong doubles. Plus, when the teams played in a non-section match Sept. 24, the Indians snapped the Foxes’ 12-match winning streak with a similar 3-2 triumph.
“It’s truly an amazing effort,” DeRienzo said of Wang’s performance because she was not 100 percent healthy and Shepard “played a fantastic match.
“(Kat) played a very, very good game of tennis. I have to give her kudos. Kat had to battle and dig deep and find the shots that she needed, particularly in the third set when she couldn’t find an answer in the second set.”
Two sets were all the Indians needed to dispatch the Foxes in the doubles competition and likewise Fox Chapel in the other singles contest, a 6-1, 6-2 win from Catherine Petrovich against PT ninth-grader Adisyn Moorhead.
In PT’s doubles sweep, Baylee Sorrell and Grace Salus combined for a 6-2, 6-0 win against Katie Voigt and Paige Theorat. At No. 2 doubles, Emma Scarton and Bella Englesberg defeated Diya Reddy and Anna Ferris, 6-1, 6-2.
“My doubles are such cohesive groups,” DeRienzo said. “They have worked together over the year. They know each other very well. They take instruction very well.
“They play a variety of doubles. It’s not just hard hitting. They like the net. They like to lob. They use all of their tools effectively and I thought they played lights out. They played great especially when you are so nervous. It’s so easy to go off the rails. I was super pleased with them getting on and off the court as quickly as they possibly could.”
Players like Sorrell make it easy for the Indians to dominate the competition. Sorrell is one of two seniors in the starting line-up–the other being Scarton–and one of five on the squad–the others are Lauren Sladic, Carly Brewster and Juliette Langley.
So with additional players like Maddie Langlois and Maddie Mackay, DeRienzo is already looking to fill the gaps for future championships.
“We’ve had the seniors teaching the younger players and it’s great because someone like Baylee has the whole game. She has a knack for doubles. She’s not going to hit the hardest ball. She’ll slice it. She’ll lob it. She gets to the net as well as anyone. I’ve seen a lot of doubles this year and she is one of the best players. That’s a big bonus for us.”
DeRienzo, however, hesitated to say that Peters Township is renewing its tennis “dynasty” but the Indians could be starting a streak like the run they had winning three WPIAL titles in four years from 2009-2012.
“We have two freshmen and a sophomore and our doubles will continue to stay strong,” DeRienzo said but countered to win one WPIAL brings a lot of pressure. “I don’t want to jinx us but we want to keep going forward.”
With the District 7 title in hand, the Indians are qualified for the PIAA team tournament. First-round action commences Oct. 22. Winners advance to the finals to be played throughout Oct. 24-25 at the Hershey Racquet Club.