NYC's Premier Junior Program
  | By Brian Coleman
Photo courtesy of Martina Choi

 

All season long, Beacon and Hunter seemed to be on a collision course, destined to meet in the New York City PSAL “A” Division Championship.

And when the two teams did square off, it did not disappoint. It proved to be a tightly-contested match, with Beacon edging out a 3-2 victory to claim its third consecutive city title.

“We had a lot of freshmen and new players to the team this season, and they were new to the team because we didn't have a season last year,” said head coach Martina Choi. “Everybody played their role; it was a total team effort. If our singles players didn't win, it was up to the doubles players to do their part, and vice versa, and that's how it was all season. It was an exciting year for us, because we really did play as a team.” 

The win was a true testament to Beacon’s depth. Natalie Bergmann and Nyla Ferdinand, who had been so good all season long, would drop matches at first and second singles, respectively, meaning that Beacon would have to win third singles and the two doubles flights to come away victorious. 

It did just that. Naisha Rathi delivered a crucial win at the third singles spot, while Maya Joy Ollivierre & Mia Sarzynska played a dominant second set to win at first doubles. In the second doubles position, Anna Struthers & Patrycja Filonik would come away with the win, and Beacon had yet another city title.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more as a coach. The girls were easy to work with and they were all supportive of each other,” said Choi. “It was a really good experience for me.”

Beacon will look to defend its title once again next season with a young core of players.

“I think we're going to have a strong season,” said Choi. “We have very dedicated players, and they want to do well. I'm hoping that, as they keep getting older, they’ll keep growing, and I know some of them play tournaments and events in the offseason. I think we can have another solid season, and I'm looking forward to the team we'll have.”

For the second straight season, Fort Hamilton is the champion of the PSAL “B” Division. The Tigers defeated The Scholars Academy 5-0 in the championship match to defend its title from a year ago.


Fort Hamilton is once again the PSAL "B" Division Champions. 

“It was very exciting for us,” said head coach Muad Nagi. “When we got together in August, there was still some nervousness about COVID, but the girls got used to it throughout the season, and continued to put in the hard work. It paid off.”

The Tigers were led by its two senior captains, Angelina Bittan and Sevinch Rakhmatdinova, who played first and second singles, respectively. The two leaders were instrumental not only in their play on the court, but setting an example for the rest of the team on how to prepare off the court, and put a lot of emphasis on bringing the team together.

“This year I promised myself to bring the girls together and through our get togethers, we all began to form a tight bond with one another,” said Bittan. “Establishing good chemistry was my number one priority. The girls were okay being themselves, and that really helped us as a team. Our team became a safe space, and if anyone was struggling outside of tennis, we’d go straight to the group chat.”

Rakhmatdinova added:

“Before the season, Angelina invited the whole team over to her house, and it really helped us form that connection between everyone. The girls on the team really were all best friends, and we had so much fun this season.”

In the championship match, Bittan and Rakhmatdinova both won their respective singles matches in straight sets, while Isabella Veseli won her match at third singles. In doubles play, Barbara Carrion & Julia Aksamentova were triumphant at first doubles, and Isabella Tchij & Janice Li won at second doubles.

Fort Hamilton will now try to navigate next season without Bittan and Rakhmatdinova, leaving both a leadership void as well as one in the starting lineup. But the example set by the two of them will carry into next year and beyond, as the Tigers aim to make it three straight city titles.

“If the girls have learned anything from us, it is to show up, even on those days you really don’t want to,” said Bittan. “Show up and give it your all. I stressed that tennis is not a game where you can play halfway and get away with it. That is why it was so great to play with Sevinch. Some of the girls came on the team thinking they didn’t have room for improvement, but we taught them how to fix their form, hit harder, generate more topspin, and the list goes on. We wanted the girls to recognize how much potential they had, and seeing them improve made us feel like proud moms.”

 

 

Brian Coleman

 Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com