Prior to this fall, the PIAA Class AAA girls tennis championship had been won by a WPIAL team in each of the past seven seasons ... but that streak was in jeopardy Friday.
Shady Side Academy lost to Methacton Friday afternoon and WPIAL champion North Allegheny found itself tied, 2-2, against Conestoga in its quarterfinal match Friday evening.
But senior Maddy Adams kept the Tigers alive, and North Allegheny went on to win its second team tennis state title in school history (2008).
"Honestly, I'm still a little bit in shock," Adams said. "We were confident coming in, but this is my first time at states and to actually win, it just made my senior year."
But it wasn't easy.
Against District 1 runner-up Conestoga, twin sisters Anna and Tina Li won their matches at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, for the Tigers. But Conestoga won both doubles matches, putting the match in the hands of both squad's No. 1 players.
Adams won the first set against Robyn Ferraro, 6-4, but Ferraro evened the match by winning the second set, 7-5. The two went into a tiebreaker in the third set, but Adams prevailed, 7-6 (7-4).
"It's the kind of match I think as coaches and players you expect as you get deeper in the state tournament," North Allegheny coach Michelle Weniger said. "Maddy was able to stay focused and stay with her strategy. She never gave up."
The win against Conestoga not only advanced North Allegheny to the semifinals, but also helped to settle the Tigers into the tournament. The match against Conestoga was the first for any of the Tigers at states.
"It was such a hard match," Adams said. "After we got through it, I think we believed if we could handle that match, we could handle the rest of them."
The Tigers went back to work Saturday afternoon, crushing West Chester Henderson, 4-1, in a match that wasn't even that close. Adams and the Li sisters each won, 6-0, 6-0, while North Allegheny's No. 1 doubles team of Jenn Hofmann and Tristyn Maalouf won 6-0, 6-4. North Allegheny's No. 2 doubles team of Catherine Zhang and Sydney Boyd were actually winning their match, but decided to retire after the team match result was already decided.
The win moved the Tigers into the championship match, where they faced District 1 champion Methacton. The Warriors have a very good No. 1 singles player, Michaela Codreanu, who finished second in the District 1 singles tournament to defending singles state champion Cristina Kaiser. Codreanu beat Adams, 6-2, 6-2, but the Tigers had too much depth.
Maalouf and Hofmann scored the team's first point, winning, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 1 doubles. Then Zhang and Boyd and Tina Li won their matches at No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles, respectively, within seconds of one another to give the Tigers the championship. Tina Li didn't lose a match in the WPIAL or state team tournaments.
It capped off an undefeated season for the Tigers and brought the state title back to Western Pennsylvania for the eighth consecutive season.
"It just feels fantastic," said Weniger, who has coached North Allegheny for 10 years. "My first thought is just how happy I am for the girls. Then my next thought is just how difficult it is to do.
"It's really hard to get through WPIALs and then the first three rounds of states just to get to the championship. So I'm just really happy."