North_ParkThe WPPTA season concluded this past Tuesday evening with the Division 1 championship match taking place at the Sewickley YMCA.  To the surprise of no one, the finals were contested between Upper St. Clair Township 1 and North Park 1.  USC1 appeared to be the favorite heading into the final, having won the regular season title with a whopping 88.2% of sets won.  The teams submitted their lineups as follows, with individual’s national ranking in parentheses…

Upper St. Clair Township 1
Line 1 – Brett Engelsberg (#26) / Walt Willoughby
Line 2 – Ajay Khurana (#30) / John Nichols (#62)
Line 3 – Dan Hersh (#66) / Tyler Noland (#66)
Line 4 – Bill Conaway / Bill Pilardi

North Park 1
Line 1 – Matt Riva (#12) / Tom Wiese (#46)
Line 2 – Jeff McMaster (#26) / Mike Wagner (#30)
Line 3 – John Edson / Leet Sommerfeld
Line 4 – Erno Vertes / Jim Welker (#46)

Lines 2 and 3 played 1st and both matches were over quickly.  McMaster/Wagner secured a straight set victory for NP1 while Hersh/Noland also won in straight sets for USC1 to keep the match all square.  For Noland, it capped off the end to a perfect 18-0 season, the only player in Division 1 this year to finish the season undefeated.

With the championship up for grabs, lines 1 and 4 took to the courts.  The pace of play was again fast and furious with lots of drives, blitzing, and aggressive play.  NP1 won the 1st set in both matches, putting them in the driver’s seat.  Then, despite a closely battled 2nd set, the team of Vertes/Welker were able to squeak out a 7-5 2nd set, clinching the title for NP1.  After having lost the last 2 finals to Upper St. Clair, North Park reclaimed the title.  It marks the 5th consecutive season in which the team that won the regular season ended up being the bridesmaid in the playoff finale.

As platform tennis continues to grow in Pittsburgh, the quality of play increases as well.  This year 7 all-Pittsburgh teams finished top 75 in the APTA rankings, there was an noticeable increase in the amount of Pittsburgh players traveling to tournaments both in and out of the region, and the city’s paddle community is very excited to be the host for 2014 National Championships next March.

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