The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

September 25, 2013

Hilltoppers claim LHAC tennis crown

Shawn Curtis

ST. MICHAEL — The Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference girls’ championship trophy is staying put at Westmont Hilltop High School.

Westmont Hilltop remained unbeaten as it topped Forest Hills 4-1 Tuesday afternoon at Forest Hills High School. The Hilltoppers (13-0) held a 2-1 lead with victories in No. 1 singles (Beth Carney) and No. 2 doubles (Ashley Kush and Lauren Criswell) when Laurel Fregly’s match with Rangers’ No. 3 Kayla Makin went into a second-set tiebreaker.

Fregly, who won the first set 6-4, took the second set 7-6 on the strength of the 7-5 tiebreak victory.

That win clinched the Westmont Hilltop match victory and gave the Hilltoppers the outright conference title.

“She gutted it out,” Westmont Hilltop coach Dan Fregly said. “You have to keep the ball on the court. That’s what we told her to do. You don’t want to go into that third set. She gutted it out, she gave us the third win and gave us the match. A very big win.” 

Earlier Carney defeated Emily Goldyn 6-2, 6-2 with Kush and Criswell teaming up to drop Maggie Long and Cheyenne Helsel 6-4, 6-2.

“It was tough and it was close,” Carney said of her match with Goldyn. “She’s probably one of the best players in the conference.”

Forest Hills (11-2) picked up its only win in No. 2 singles as Rachel Blanchetti swept Ellie Kane 6-1, 6-2.

“Rachel is very mentally tough,” Forest Hills coach John Waksmunski said. “She likes to go in and dictate the points and she was able to do that. She has a lot of confidence.” 

The Hilltoppers, who reclaimed the conference title last season, picked up their fourth victory of the match in No. 1 doubles with Nicole Barnhart and Corrin Claycomb outlasting the Forest Hills tandem of Emily Shirt and Brianna Neff 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 7-5.

Taking the conference laurels wasn’t as easy as the Hilltoppers’ perfect record indicates, especially with Forest Hills serving as Westmont Hilltop’s chief foil.

“Forest Hills is a good team, they only had one loss (before Tuesday) and that was to us,” Dan Fregly said. “You can see how close the matches were. An absolutely formidable team.” 

The Rangers’ only two losses have come to Westmont Hilltop, but Forest Hills could see the Hilltoppers again if the stars align as Waksmunski envisions.

“We’re a good team,” Waksmunski said. “I told the girls before we started that when this is over; if we win, then we beat a good team and if they win, they’ve beaten a good team. We’re going to play again. We’ll be playing for the District 6 championship, so we’re looking forward to that.

“I’m happy with the way my team played. We closed the gap a little between the first time we played and this time.”

Shawn Curtis is a news assistant for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at