PG South: Upper St. Clair tandem has eyes on a title

GIRLS' TENNIS

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Upper St. Clair's Megan Adamo and Andrea Hammer make for a perfect doubles pairing.

Adamo frustrates and lulls opponents to sleep with her consistent, mistake-free play, thereby setting up her partner to swing the, uhm, hammer.

When the duo takes the court today at Keystone Oaks High School for the beginning of the WPIAL Class AAA doubles tournament, one would be hard-pressed to find an entrant with more experience playing together.

Adamo and Hammer have been friends and training partners for years and have been entering doubles tournaments together regularly for the past three years.

"We're a good fit as a doubles team because we're pretty different players," Adamo said. "Whenever I play doubles, I'm more conservative. I don't have good days and I don't have bad days. I'm always pretty neutral. I make most of my shots, but I don't go for too much.

"She, on the other hand, is the aggressive one. She poaches a lot, comes in and she hits the big serve. My purpose is I try to set her up."

Adamo is a sophomore who typically plays first singles in the Upper St. Clair team lineup; Hammer, a junior, plays second singles. Each is ranked in the USTA Middle States Region, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and parts of West Virginia. Adamo is No. 21 among players 16 and under and Hammer is 70th in the 18 age group.

But each might just be at her best when playing doubles with the other. The two advanced to the WPIAL doubles quarterfinals last season, when each was undefeated in team play through the Panthers' run to the WPIAL and PIAA championship matches.

"We keep each other positive," Adamo said. "We communicate a lot -- we might not actually talk to each other, but we give each other looks. We're always there for each other."

"She just doesn't make any mistakes," Hammer said. "I just get to go for stuff.

"It's real motivating just to try to do the best that we can. It can be rewarding when you're successful, and what's so great about doubles is you get to share your success with your partner ... and for your partner to be your best friend is a good experience."

The two met and became friends while playing tennis at the Glencreek Tennis Club and the Upper St. Clair Tennis Development Program over the years.

"What's synonymous for both of them is that they put a lot of effort and time into their games and both play a lot of tournaments," said Ryan Taucher, who is in his first season as coach of the Upper St. Clair High School team and has worked with both for years at the Upper St. Clair Tennis Development Program.

"Megan is very conditioned, and she works very hard ... I'd say she's on the court every day of the week. She definitely loves to put time and effort into success. She's probably the hardest working player on my team.... But Andrea is also a very hard-working player. And she's very athletic."

Adamo and Hammer were the only returning starters entering the season for Upper St. Clair. The perennially powerful Panthers -- they have advanced at least to the WPIAL semifinals for five consecutive seasons -- are in the unfamiliar position of entering the postseason after having not won their section title.

Upper St. Clair was 9-2 in section play heading into Wednesday's scheduled match against Mt. Lebanon.

Senior Rachel Ameroso plays third singles, junior Catherine Engel and senior Maggie Overstreet at first doubles, and freshman Kristin Stemler and junior Madyson Schieler at second doubles.

But illness, injury and other maladies have led to the rest of the roster contributing at various points this season. Junior Amanda Buckholt, for example, pitched in with a win in her match against Oakland Catholic. Junior Kelly Burdette, senior Emily Roatry and sophomores Gabrielle Granato and Amit Shimshi have shown they are capable of stepping into the lineup.

"We're definitely starting to come together as a team," Taucher said. "A lot of the girls weren't used to starting but this year they're getting that experience behind them or having that pressure and are getting used to that atmosphere, which will come into play now that we have to win. They're definitely starting to jell."



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