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Stevens conquers 3A field

D6 singles tennis

Photo for the Mirror by Chuck Meyers Morgan Stevens celebrates en route to winning the District 4-6 Class 3A singles championship.

Altoona Area High School sophomore Morgan Stevens collapsed to the ground and wept tears of joy after winning the District 4-6 Class 3A girls tennis singles championship late Saturday morning at Mansion Park.

Stevens, who earned the title with a straight-set 6-3, 6-1 victory over State College sophomore Quiana Guo, had certainly paid her dues.

Stevens was a District 6 Class 3A singles runner-up last fall and was also a member of the district’s second-place doubles team.

Stevens had entered this year’s singles tournament seeded fourth, but defeated the top seed, along with the third-seeded Guo, en route to winning the title.

Westmont Hilltop junior Alyssa Kush won the District 6 Class 2A singles championship, also held on Saturday at Mansion Park, with a straight-set 6-0, 6-0 victory over Central Cambria senior Olivia Ratchford.

Stevens never wavered in this year’s tournament, despite the obstacles and challenges that she faced.

“It’s amazing,” Stevens said of her path to this year’s district singles championship. “I did have a rough path getting to this year’s finals, but I believed in myself, and I never gave up. I knew what I was getting into here — everybody is experienced at districts, and you have to give it your all.”

Veteran Altoona coach Eric Hovan applauded Stevens for her tremendous achievement.

“She had to beat three amazing players to get this championship,” Hovan said. “Morgan fights and competes, and it was her ability to hang in there when times were tough that made such a huge difference for her.

“She beat the best three players in the tournament to win,” Hovan added. “She had an unbelievable tournament.”

Stevens minimized errors and kept the ball consistently in play, according to State College coach Jane Bowen.

“She played really well,” Bowen said of Stevens. “She gets after it, she’s a really good player whose strength is keeping the ball in play. She had very few unforced errors today, and Q (Guo) had more unforced errors than she normally does. That was a bad combination for us.”

Stevens will move on to interdistrict competiton against the District 11 champion at a site and time to be determined.

The final four in both the Class 3A and 2A divisions will play the semifinals and finals in Hershey Nov. 6-8.

“It’s a modified format this year, due to COVID,” Hovan said. “She’ll advance to the quarterfinals against the District 11 champ, and the Final Four in the state will be in Hershey.”

Stevens is relishing the thought of moving on.

“It’s going to be a great experience,” she said.

In the District 6 Class 2A championship match, Westmont’s Kush won her third district title in as many seasons by defeating Ratchford, who finished her high school career as a four-time district singles runner-up.

“I thought that I was serving really well,” Kush said. “My first-serve percentage was really high, and I hit the ball back very hard. I came to the net really well, and that’s not my biggest strength.”

Ratchford — who has also been a member of three District 6 Class 2A doubles championship teams so far in her high school career — saluted Kush for defending her championship.

Kush also beat Ratchford in the District 6 Class 2A singles title match in both of the past two seasons.

“Alyssa played really well, she’s a really good player,” Ratchford said. “I’m proud of the way I played, but I also think that I could have done a lot better. I wanted a different outcome.”

Central Cambria coach Kim Cavalier said that Ratchford has been a true asset to the school’stennis program in each of the last four years.

“Liv has a heart of gold, and she’s an absolutely incredible player,” Cavalier said. “She works so hard at her game all year around, traveling to competitions at places like Pittsburgh and State College. She wanted so badly to win today, and that made it hard for her.

“She’s a great player who never gives up and I couldn’t be more proud of her for being a leader on our team.”

District 6 Class 3A championship

Stevens, Altoona, def. Quo, State College, 6-3, 6-1.

District 6 Class 2A championship

Kush, Westmont Hilltop, def. Ratchford, Central Cambria, 6-0, 6-0.

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