On its way to the WPIAL Class 3A team tennis championship, Greater Latrobe had several challenging matches over the past several weeks.
The Lady Wildcats bested a talented Shady Side Academy squad, and then outlasted Peters Township and Upper St. Clair, the top two seeds in the tournament, last week to claim gold for the third time in program history.
On the heels of so many competitive battles, the Lady Wildcats enjoyed a dominant performance in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs on Wednesday, overwhelming District 10 champion Fairview 5-0 inside the Oxford Athletic Club in Wexford.
“It was a good start to where we want to finish this week,” said Greater Latrobe head coach Chad Kissell, noting that his team has PIAA championship aspirations on Saturday.
“I think those last three matches, my girls had to be so mentally focused. For them to maybe have a match that was a tad easier for them, it could give them a little mental break, which could help us in the long run.”
Greater Latrobe not only claimed straight-set wins in each match on Wednesday, but the Lady Wildcats lost just three total games. All three singles matches were decided 6-0, 6-0. Junior Jenna Bell bested Trinity Fox in the No. 1 matchup, senior Addison Kemerer made quick work of Lydia Soltis at No. 2 singles, and junior Carolina Walters topped Allie Mahoney at third singles.
In doubles play, Reese Petrosky and Maya Jain prevailed 6-0, 6-1 against Halle Myers and Emma Schuette at first doubles, while Avery Massaro and Emily Pierce won 6-1, 6-1 at second doubles against Julia Bleicher and Grace Platz.
In all, it took just about an hour from start to finish for the Lady Wildcats to dispatch the Lady Tigers and improve to 15-0 this season.
Fairview, which is located just west of Erie, defeated Pittsburgh City League representative Brashear 5-0 earlier this week to reach the quarterfinals. Kissell had little familiarity with the school, so he instead stressed to his girls to simply play their game, regardless of the opposition.
“I kind of just focus on how my girls are playing, because I know if they’re playing at the top of their game, they can beat anyone,” he said.
While all of the Lady Wildcats excelled in the victory, Kissell pointed to Kemerer as the most impressive on Wednesday.
“She was the first one done. She didn’t mess around at all,” he said of his senior.
As a result, the Lady Wildcats advance to the PIAA Class 3A State Semifinals, and will face District 3 Champion Manheim Township, which rolled past Abington Heights 5-0 on Wednesday. That match will be played 2 p.m. Saturday at the Hershey Racquet Club.
If the Lady Wildcats win, they will play in the state championship match at the same venue, 6 p.m. that night. In the other semifinal, District 1 representative Spring-Ford faces Southern Lehigh from District 11.
In preparation, the Lady Wildcats will practice indoors today in Greensburg, and then head to Hershey on Friday afternoon to get an additional practice at the site of their matchup.
A few recent practices, as well as Wednesday’s quarterfinals tilt, gave the Lady Wildcats additional experience indoors, something that could be crucial on Saturday.
“Moving indoors, it kind of changes the game a little bit. It’s a very fast-paced game,” Kissell detailed. “I think the girls are going to need to have their reaction times be a little bit quicker.”
In 2005, the Lady Wildcats reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament before falling to state runner-up Upper Dublin, of District 1. Greater Latrobe advanced to the state semifinals in 2002 before a loss against eventual state champion Freedom, of District 11.
Either Greater Latrobe or Manheim Township will secure its first trip to the PIAA Class 3A Championship, and unlike with Fairview, the reputation of Blue Streak precedes them.
“They’re known to have a lot of success,” Kissell said. “That’s the challenge we’re up for.”
PIAA Class 3A
Girls Tennis Quarterfinals
SINGLES — Jenna Bell (Gr. Latrobe) d. Trinity Fox, 6-0, 6-0; Addison Kemerer (Gr. Latrobe) d. Lydia Soltis, 6-0, 6-0; Carolina Walters (Gr. Latrobe) d. Allie Mahoney, 6-0, 6-0.
DOUBLES — Reese Petrosky-Maya Jain (Gr. Latrobe) d. Halle Myers-Emma Schuette, 6-0, 6-1; Avery Massaro-Emily Pierce (Gr. Latrobe) d. Julie Bleicher-Grace Platz, 6-1, 6-1.