Apparently, to be the best girls tennis team in Section 6-AA, a school also has to be the best team in the WPIAL.
Conference rivals Sewickley Academy and Quaker Valley have combined to win the past nine WPIAL Class AA team championships. That includes this season, as the Quakers took down Sewickley, 3-2, Friday to win their sixth title since 2004.
Both teams advanced to the PIAA tournament, playing first-round games Tuesday. Quaker Valley blanked Windber, 5-0, and Sewickley defeated Elk County Catholic, 5-0. Both advance to the quarterfinals Friday at the Hershey Racquet Club in Hershey. The Quakers will take on Loyalsock while Sewickley will play Berks Catholic.
"I just have to say that Quaker Valley is a great team and a great program," Sewickley coach Whitney Snyder said.
Three of Quaker Valley's WPIAL titles have come after championship match victories against Sewickley. In each of the Panthers' three WPIAL title seasons in the past five years, they beat the Quakers in the final.
Although separated by a little more than a mile and a half, the two schools are a lot different. Quaker Valley is a mid-sized public school (about 640 students in grades 9-12) located in Leetsdale.
Sewickley Academy is a private school with a small enrollment (219 students) located in Sewickley, which is part of the Quaker Valley School District. The close proximity and the different student body makeup has spawned a great rivalry.
"In terms of tennis in West Pennsylvania, the rivalry between the two teams is as good as it gets," Quaker Valley coach Jeff Sebastian said. "You have two great teams with great players each year. You always have to bring your 'A' game or you're going to lose."
The two programs split their two regular-season battles this season, with Quaker Valley winning the first match 4-1 and Sewickley rebounding with a 3-2 triumph in the regular-season finale.
Sebastian said losing to Sewickley may have been a good thing for his squad.
"I have to say Sewickley Academy has a great team and you're not going to beat them three times in a row," Sebastian said. "I'm not saying I was relieved when we lost to them the second time we played them, but I knew we would use it to work harder and I felt better about [Friday's] match."
The Panthers were awarded the No. 1 seed at the WPIAL Class AA team tournament, while Quaker Valley was seeded No. 2. Neither team had much trouble in reaching the final.
In the championship match, 2010 and 2012 WPIAL Class AA singles champion Spencer Caravaggio got the Quakers off to a good start with a 6-1, 6-1, win over Samantha Gohh at No. 1 singles, but Sewickley tied it up at No. 2 singles, as Sydney Miggantz defeated Samantha Richman, 6-1, 6-0.
Quaker Valley retook the lead at No. 3 singles when freshman Farrah Bojalad beat Jappman Monga, part of the WPIAL doubles champion team, 6-1, 6-4. Bojalad's performance impressed Sebastian.
"She really surprised me," Sebastian said. "She showed she can kick it into a second gear when she needs to."
The WPIAL title clincher came at No. 2 doubles, where QV's Connor Hamilton and Isabella Hubsch defeated Cara Dietrich and Lauren Ritz, 7-5, 6-2.
Dietrich had started much of the season, but had to step into No. 2 doubles during the WPIAL tournament because one of the team's top doubles players, Sydney Joseph, is out for the rest of the season with mononucleosis. That caused the Panthers to re-arrange both of their doubles teams, with Amy Cheng playing with Riley Roberts for the first time this season at No. 1 doubles. Cheng and Roberts beat Emily Veeck and Caroline Steliotes 2-6, 6-1, 6-0, to get Sewickley' second win Friday.
Sewickley became the first team from the WPIAL to win a Class AA state title last season. The state championship is something Sebastian and Quaker Valley don't have. The Quakers lost in the state final to Harriton in 2006, '07 and '09, then lost to Harriton in the state semifinals in '10.
"Once we won the WPIAL title, I said to the girls, 'Let's not quit. Let's finish this thing out,'" Sebastian said. "We are hoping to go the distance but we have to take it one match at a time. We'll see what happens."