Sewickley Academy athlete of the week: Evelyn Safar
School: Sewickley Academy
Claim to fame: Sewickley Academy formed a circle on the tennis court after its latest match, the one that earned the Panthers’ the PIAA Class 2A championship.
The huddle, which is typically a debriefing, turned into a tearful celebration, in which everyone recognized each other’s contributions to the team. Evelyn Safar led the Panthers as the No. 1 singles player and won with the most ease in the final by a 6-1, 6-0 margin.
How much has it sunk in that you and your teammates are state champions?
I think it finally hit when I was on the way home. Sitting out there, cheering and watching the title point be played by our No. 2 singles player, Simran Bedi, as she pulled out the victory for us was a huge adrenaline rush. I don’t think it really sunk in until the ride home when I thought about how hard we tried, how much we cared and how all it all paid off.
Was a state championship an expectation for you at the beginning of the season?
I can’t say it was an expectation. After we lost in the semis last year we kind of reconvened and said, “Look, next year we’re going to come back.” But we’re a team with six sophomores, so we’re still relatively young. I think we expected to play our hearts out and knew that we had a really good shot.
Was there ever a point that you were nervous that the team might not be able to pull off a win?
I can’t say I was. Our No. 1 one doubles team (Alina Mattson and Victoria Keller) had a really close, more than two hours-long, three-set match. That was the key to getting into the finals. I really believed in them with all of my heart.
No one on the team won every match they played in during the state tournament. Do you feel like needing everyone to step up at different times makes this season even better?
I think it makes us all feel better about it, because we know we all had an equal part. I think it was because of the other members of the team that we did so well when we were playing. I can’t tell you how happy I am and how much everyone cares about each other.
Alina Mattson was the only upperclassmen to start in states for Sewickley Academy. How has she been a mentor to you?
I can’t even begin to talk about how much Alina has done for me. The first year I was on the team with the other sophomores she walked us through everything. I’ve played tennis for a long time, but never in a team environment. She taught me how to act on a team, and she taught me, at least I hope am, to be a really great team member. She was crucial in making me feel welcomed and comfortable.
You’re one of six sophomores to be a part of this season’s state championship run. Do you think there are more WPIAL and state championships in your future?
I really hope so. We’re a strong team, and we all played phenomenally. We’re already so close and work so well together as a team. I think we’ll get closer and become better. I really hope we can bring home another WPIAL and state victory next year and when we’re seniors, as well.