The WPIAL Class AA tennis singles championship last Friday at North Allegheny High School pitted the established star vs. the up-and-comer.
By making the final, Quaker Valley senior Spencer Caravaggio qualified for the state tournament for the fourth time. She was looking for her second WPIAL title, having won the championship in 2010. Standing in her way was Greensburg Central Catholic freshman Alyvia Kluska, making her first WPIAL tournament appearance. But just by making the final, Kluska one-upped Caravaggio. The Quaker Valley star took third at WPIALs in her freshman year of high school.
Caravaggio used her vast repertoire and experience to overwhelm Kluska, 6-1, 6-1, to take the championship. Caravaggio lost only four games in four matches at the WPIAL tournament, with Kluska getting half that total.
"It was a really good experience," Kluska said. "I didn't expect to get this far exactly. I'm excited to make states."
Kluska was the No. 3 seed for the WPIAL tournament, entering with an undefeated record. She breezed through her first two matches, beating Ellis' Maeve McAllister and Ellwood City's Reed Kegal, 10-1 and 10-3, respectively. That pitted her against No. 2 seed Sydney Miggantz of Sewickley Academy in the semifinals. Kluska won a tightly contested first set 6-4 and then breezed in the second set, taking it 6-0.
That set up the match with Caravaggio, the first between the two. Caravaggio knew Kluska had some power, so she mapped out a strategy to counter that.
"I know she hits pretty flat and pretty hard so my thought was to try and hit the ball deep and get it in one more time than she did," Caravaggio said.
There was also a strong wind during much of the match and Kluska did not adjust well.
"I couldn't handle trying to change my shots to play with the wind," Kluska said. "So I need to work on that."
Kluska has been working on her tennis game since the age of 7, with her father, Dr. Michael Kluska, acting as her coach. Michael played for Greensburg Central Catholic in the mid-1980s, winning the PIAA mixed doubles title in 1984 and finishing third in the state in boys doubles in 1982.
Following high school, he was the No. 1 singles player at Washington and Jefferson College, from where he graduated in 1989. He later played in a satellite pro league in Iowa during the summer to help pay for medical school.
Now he is teaching his children the game. Kluska's sister, Michaela, is a talented eighth-grader who will join Alyvia on the Centurions next season. But that's next year. This year, Kluska will play in Hershey in November against the state's best.
"There will be a lot of good players and I just want to do my best," Kluska said.