East Xtra: Revenge in WPIAL final sweet for Greensburg Central Catholic

HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS


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For the first time since 1999, the Greensburg Central Catholic girls tennis team is WPIAL Class AA team champion.

It was possible because of the revenge two sisters enacted on Sewickley Academy.

"We definitely wanted to win for our team, but we also wanted to come back and redeem ourselves from [WPIAL singles]," sophomore Alyvia Kluska said.

Michaela and Alyvia Kluska entered the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament on Sept. 18-19 as the favorites.

Michaela Kluska, a freshman at Greensburg Central Catholic, was the No. 1 seed after beating her older sister, in a third-set tiebreaker in the Class AA section tournament. Alyvia Kluska, the 2012 WPIAL singles runner-up, was seeded second.

But both hit a speed bump along the way to an all-sister final.

Michaela Kluska fell, 6-2, 6-3, to Sewickley Academy senior Sydney Miggantz in the WPIAL semifinals. At the same time on an adjacent court, Alyvia Kluska lost to another Panthers' senior, Samantha Gohh, 6-3, 6-3.

That meant that only one of the girls would advance to the PIAA singles tournament, and Alyvia forfeited to Michaela to give the final berth to her freshman sibling.

Alyvia ended up qualifying for the state doubles tournament with teammate Jordan Smithberger

It was the singles losses by the Kluskas, however, that helped make the WPIAL team title possible.

Alyvia Kluska had been playing No. 1 singles for the Centurions, with Michaela playing No. 2. But with Michaela beating Alyvia Kluska in the section tournament, and then gaining the PIAA berth the following week, Centurions coach Shawn Vimislicky made a change.

"Once the [singles] tournament started, Alyvia wasn't playing well," Vimislicky said. "She was having trouble with her serve and I think the pressure from having so much success last year got to her.

"... So I thought since Michaela won the section [title] and made states, I'd play her at No. 1 in the playoffs. It just so happened that it got them refocused -- all of them. Not just those girls, but it refocused [Smithberger] and put an interest in my doubles. It just worked."

Because of the switch, the matchup against Sewickley's top two players were reversed in the final, as Michaela Kluska took on Gohh and Alyvia Kluska played Miggantz.

Michaela didn't only have to deal with the pressure of playing the WPIAL champion in the biggest match of her high school career, but she also had to deal with illness.

"I wasn't feeling well [the previous night] and I woke up [the day of the match] with a fever," Michaela Kluska said after Thursday's championship. "I'm still not feeling well, but the good thing is I usually play better when I'm sick."

"It's true," Alyvia Kluska said.

Michaela Kluska proved it again against Sewickley, running away from Gohh in a 6-1, 6-2 victory.

Meanwhile, Smithberger dominated Lauren Ritz at No. 3 singles, winning 6-2, 6-1.

"[Smithberger] had been playing well the whole second half of the season," Vimislicky said. "She just put it all together. She got on a streak, her confidence grew and she carried it through."

Vimislicky thought that coming into the match, if his team were to win it would need to sweep singles. He ended up being right, as Sewickley dominated doubles, losing just one game combined in the two matches.

Which meant that it came down to Alyvia Kluska at No. 2 singles. A sophomore standout, she cruised to a 6-1 win in the first set, but found herself down 6-5 in the second, with Miggantz serving to send it to a deciding set.

That's when Kluska's father, former pro tennis player Michael Kluska, talked to his daughter for a minute.

"He just said to stay patient and play 'Liv tennis,'" Alyvia Kluska said.

She broke Miggantz and then won seven of the eight points in the tiebreaker to send the Centurions players and their parents into a frenzy.

"It's amazing and I love being with this team and being able to make great memories," Alyvia Kluska said.

The Centurions will be able to make more this week in the PIAA tournament. Greensburg Central Catholic defeated St. Mary's, 5-0, Tuesday and advanced to the quarterfinals this weekend in Hershey.


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