North Xtra: Sewickley Academy duo upholds tennis tradition
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Last season as sophomores, Sewickley Academy's Amy Cheng and Jappman Monga were playing exhibition matches while their school won the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles.
Now the two are the best doubles tandem in the WPIAL.
Cheng and Monga, who are both Franklin Park residents, defeated South Park's Chelsea Carter and Sara Kaminski, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), in the WPIAL Class AA doubles final Friday at North Allegheny High School.
"All our hard work finally paid off," Monga said. "It's an amazing feeling."
Cheng and Monga didn't crack the starting lineup for a stacked Panthers' lineup that included the WPIAL singles champion, Eva Sung, and the WPIAL and PIAA doubles champions, Logan Antill and Caroline Ross.
Those three, along with 2012 WPIAL singles qualifier Sydney Miggantz, helped Sewickley become the first Class AA team from the WPIAL to take the state title.
Last year's success by the school provided the motivation for Cheng and Monga this season.
"I think there is pride in wanting to represent the school well," Sewickley coach Whitney Snyder said. "All the credit goes to the girls because they are the ones putting the time in during the season and after the season. They want to carry on what has been successful before them. It's a tribute to them. I just drive the van."
Cheng echoed her coach's thoughts.
"Being the champions last year, we felt pressure," Cheng said. "That's why we worked really hard to live up to the expectations."
With Antill, Ross and Sung graduating this past spring, the door opened for Cheng and Monga to thrive. On the court, the team has played a lot of doubles together. Off the court, the two are close friends. That makes the communication between the two easier when they are playing tennis together.
"Some people have to signal with their hands on the court, but we don't have to do that," Cheng said. "Telepathically, we've got each other."
The two were barely challenged at sections or their first three matches at WPIALs. In the Section 6-AA tournament, Cheng and Monga lost only six points in three matches on their way to the title. The performance also earned them the No. 1 seed at the WPIAL tournament.
At the WPIAL tournament, the Sewickley tandem won each of their first two matches by a 10-5 score, and then took down Blackhawk's Juliana Lapek and Analise Zapadka, 6-0, 6-3, in the semifinals.
But after winning the first set in the title against Carter and Kaminski, 6-2, Cheng and Monga were in for a dogfight.
With Cheng and Monga leading, 6-5, in the second set, South Park's pair broke Sewickley to send the set into a tiebreaker, which was back and forth the whole time. Eventually, Cheng and Monga prevailed to win their first WPIAL title.
"It was a stressful time," Monga said. "They have a really, really strong team. It was really competitive."
"But we didn't lose focus and we finished," Cheng added.
The duo will now prepare to help Sewickley defend its title at the WPIAL team tournament, which was scheduled to begin Wednesday. Then Cheng and Monga will head to Hershey for the weekend of Nov. 2-3 to try and repeat Antill and Ross' feat last season.