For Beaver Area girls tennis coach Riley Baker, seeing two of his players match up against one another in the Class AA Section 2 singles tournament final was at the same time satisfying and awkward.
But for the Bobcats' Moriah Bridges and Mattie Taylor, it was fun.
Bridges, a freshman, defeated Taylor, a junior, 6-1, 5-7, 7-5, last Thursday to win her first section title. Both players qualified for this week's WPIAL Class AA singles tournament.
"It was exciting to have it Beaver vs. Beaver," Taylor said. "We had both made WPIALs already, so there was no pressure. It was fun."
"We were very friendly," Bridges said. "We were chatting between points. It was fun."
This week will be the first WPIAL singles tournament for each player. For Bridges, it could be the first of many.
"She may be only a freshman, but she's an experienced player," Baker said. "She puts in a lot of practice and plays a lot. She's used to this level of competition. I'm real happy with how she played."
Baker has been watching Bridges for more than five years, so he knew what type of talent he was getting when she entered high school.
But even he was surprised by her early accomplishments.
"I could tell when she was younger she would be a very good player," Baker said. "So I wasn't really surprised about how well she's played, but I never thought she would win the section title as a freshman."
What has impressed Taylor the most about Bridges is this freshman's maturity.
"There's a maturity in her that is surprising for a freshman," Taylor said. "She's a very good player."
Taylor was also Beaver's No. 2 singles player last year behind Raquel Holiday, who graduated in June. Taylor teamed up with Holiday to reach the WPIAL doubles tournament after winning the section title last season.
But Taylor fell short in singles, losing in the section quarterfinals.
"I worked a lot on my consistency this offseason," Taylor said. "Hopefully that has paid off."
Both are facing tough tasks at the WPIAL tournament this week. Defending WPIAL Class AA champion Spencer Caravaggio of Quaker Valley has graduated, but 2012 runner-up Alyvia Kluska of Greensburg Central Catholic returns, as does third-place finisher Sydney Miggantz of Sewickley Academy.
Both Kluska and Miggantz lost in their respective section finals to teammates. Kluska lost to her younger sister, Michaela, in three sets, while Miggantz retired due to a foot injury after losing the first set to teammate Samantha Gohh.
So there should be a lot of players vying for the three PIAA qualifier spots.
"I think both [Moriah and Mattie] can hang with any of the other girls there," Baker said. "I'm just going to tell them to go out there and do the best they can."hsother