During her four-year career at Pine-Richland, Marlys Bridgham has always been one of the area's top singles players.
But last weekend was Bridgham's first time playing in the PIAA Class AAA singles tournament -- and she made the most of it.
Bridgham didn't lose a set in winning four matches, ultimately defeating Methacton's Mihaela Codreanu, 6-1, 6-4, in the state championship match.
"It was very exciting," Bridgham said. "That last point, playing against a great player, was the most exciting moment of my tennis career."
Bridgham is a four-time WPIAL qualifier and three-time section champion. But she was upset at the WPIAL tournament each of the previous two years by Upper St. Clair's Megan Adamo.
In 2011, it happened in the first round, and last season in the quarterfinals when Bridgham was the No. 2 seed.
But Bridgham, a senior, learned from those losses, and used them to help her this season.
"You learn more when you lose than when you win," Bridgham said. "I learned I needed to be more focused. So after the loss last year, I told myself that the next year, I would come into WPIALs and states more focused and tournament tough."
Bridgham was seeded third at this year's WPIAL Class AAA tournament, but beat No. 2 seed Natalia Perry in straight sets in the semifinals to clinch her first state tournament berth. Bridgham then took the first set from defending WPIAL champion Callie Frey in the finals before losing the final two sets.
Her second-place finish meant that she had to face defending state champion Cristina Kaiser in the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals after both players easily won their first matches Friday at Hershey.
Bridgham and Kaiser are good friends, but Bridgham has gotten the better of Kaiser five of the six times they've played, including a 6-2, 6-2, victory Friday.
"She's a good friend and we've played many times, but there was a lot more riding on it this time," Bridgham said.
Bridgham then lost just one game in a semifinal win against Wissahickon's Maureen Devlin in the semifinals to set up a final with Codreanu, who defeated Frey in a third-set tiebreak in the semifinals.
But Bridgham stayed focused and became the first Pine-Richland player to win the title and the ninth WPIAL player in the past 11 years to win the PIAA Class AAA singles crown.
With her high school career now over, Bridgham will transition to the next part of her tennis career, which will come at the University of Dayton next fall.
"Right after I won, I couldn't wait to call the Dayton coach and tell him how I did," Bridgham said. "I'm excited to be the high school champion and I think it will prepare me for college tennis next year."
Foxes sophomore pair wins title
Fox Chapel sophomores Laurel Shymansky and Lacey Cohen seemed to be cruising along to a PIAA Class AAA doubles title.
The Foxes duo won the first set of its state championship match against North Allegheny's Maddy Adams and Tina Li, 6-3, and was up 5-1 in the second set.
But the Tigers' pair, especially Adams, stepped up its game and rallied to win the second set in a tiebreak.
"The pressure was enormous to close out the match," Fox Chapel coach Alex Slezak said. "And credit goes to North Allegheny. They played well. Maddy Adams single-handedly almost reversed the momentum."
The players had five minutes between sets to regroup, and Shymansky and Cohen both said they just tried to erase the second set from their memories.
"We decided to forget everything that happened and move on," Cohen said.
In a back-and-forth third set, Shymansky and Cohen prevailed in a tiebreak, 7-6 (7-1), to win their first state championship.
"It was our goal since the start of last season," said Shymansky, who has been playing tennis with Cohen since both girls were 8 years old.