Quaker Valley senior Spencer Caravaggio qualified for the PIAA Class AA singles tournament in each of her first three seasons and won the WPIAL Class AA title in 2010.
Because of that, she entered the 2012 WPIAL singles tournament, which was played last Thursday and Friday, as the overwhelming favorite. There was just one problem -- she couldn't serve overhand.
Caravaggio, a right-hander, has a few loose ligaments in her right shoulder, so for the past two weeks she has worn a shoulder brace on-and-off. The brace restricts movement in her shoulder, so she is unable to serve overhand. She was forced to lightly serve the ball underhand, taking away one of her most potent weapons on the court.
"I thought there's no way she's going to win [the WPIAL Tournament]," Quaker Valley coach Jeff Sebastian said. "I thought they would just come up and attack it, but she serves it so low that they couldn't really do anything with it."
Caravaggio lost just four games in four matches at the WPIAL tournament, two of which came in the finals in her 6-1, 6-1 win against Greensburg Central Catholic freshman Alyvia Kluska. She said she thinks the underhand serve can frustrate her opponents.
"When you miss balls like that, you can get annoyed pretty quickly," Caravaggio said. "If it annoys somebody, I'm sorry."
Sebastian said Caravaggio's array of shots is the reason she was still able to win the tournament with ease.
"Her serve is a weapon that people don't know what to do with," Sebastian said. "So she did lose a weapon, but she has so many other shots in her repertoire that it didn't make that much of a difference."
Caravaggio said she actually played better because she had to step up in other facets of her game to compensate for not having her regular serve.
"It made me play better because I had to move better and I was in position more," Caravaggio said. "It worked out, so I'm happy."
Both Caravaggio and Sebastian said they expect her shoulder to be fine by the PIAA tournament Nov. 2-3 in Hershey. Caravaggio will be looking for her first state title. She took second in 2010 and lost in the first round in 2009 and 2011.
In each of the past two seasons, she lost to Lancaster Country Day's Julia Casselbury, who won the state title both years. Casselbury graduated in May, so Caravaggio will be one of the favorites to take the crown.
"There are so many good competitors at states, but I think being a senior, it would be awesome to win," Caravaggio said. "I think that definitely gives me a little bit more drive."