While people play sports for many different reasons, the ultimate goal of playing a sport is to win. In New York City high school tennis, there has been one team that, for the past 13 years, has yet to fail at that goal, the Lady Terriers from St. Francis Prep.
Thirteen years ago, John Brennan took the girl’s tennis team coaching job for St. Francis Prep. Never did he imagine that during his tenure there, his team would never lose a match. When this issue went to press, Coach Brennan’s record as head coach of the St. Francis Prep Lady Terriers is an astounding 199-0! In that time span, the team has won 13 league titles (including this year), 12 State Championships and 12 Mayor’s Cup victories.
A record of 199-0 is almost unheard of in any sport at any level. According to Coach Brennan, the reason why his teams have been able to see such a high degree of success is in large part due to the amount of talent that consistently attends the school, as well as the regiment they use to prepare for matches.
“You have to have talent in order to succeed,” said Brennan. “Once you have the necessary talent, what you do from there is important as well. Our team practices a lot, four to five days a week and two hours a day. I even work with the girls during the summer to keep them in shape and make sure they are getting the necessary playing time in.”
When asked about the degree of competition in the league, Coach Brennan said, “The competition in the league is good, but it could be better. Top junior players often do not choose to play for their high school team, but with my team, I encourage it for our top players. I often use the example of one of my former players, Shinann Featherston, who was ranked number one in the USTA Eastern Section and ranked in the top 10 nationally. Playing for our team helped her in her personal matches and ultimately prepared her for her college career.”
St. Francis Prep’s team has gained such a reputation that the best local players often attend the school to play tennis. When parents approach Coach Brennan, they often ask about possible scholarships.
“Often, when girls come out for the team, parents ask about scholarships and while I would love to recruit on that level, I tell them that we obviously cannot offer any money,” said Coach Brennan. “What we can offer is that your child will improve their tennis game, while also getting a great education and preparation for college.”
Undefeated teams have the added pressure and high expectations to win all the time.
“I constantly feel pressure to win, as I am competitive and don’t like to lose,” said Coach Brennan. “However, if we were to lose, I wouldn’t make any excuses. If someone beats us, they beat us.”
To Coach Brennan and the girls of the team, the ultimate goal is to win the Mayor’s Cup, the New York City Championship. The Mayor’s Cup means the most to the team as it encompasses all divisions, public schools, private schools and Catholic schools to find an eventual city champion. Before the season began, the team set the goal of going undefeated and winning the Mayor’s Cup again. According to number one singles player, senior Katie Derienzo, “Winning the Mayor’s Cup will mean a lot to us this year. There are a lot of good teams which makes it that much more special to win it”.
Number three singles player, Samantha Rosca-Sipot, added, “To win the Mayor’s Cup this year would mean even more to me because I am a senior and would like to end my career with another City Championship.”
When asked what separates this team from the others in the league, Samantha replied, “I think a lot of it has to do with our team atmosphere. We all get along so well and have fun every day in our practices and matches. We have become a small family and want to win for each other.”
When asked the same question, Derienzo answered, “I believe a lot of it has to do with Coach Brennan. He always wants us to improve and motivates us constantly. He pushes us to play our best and we want to win for him.”
Both girls are currently looking at colleges and plan to play tennis for whichever school they attend.
All good things must come to an end, and this streak might end next year due to the fact that St. Francis is losing an astounding seven seniors from this year’s team. Next year might be an uphill battle, but based on past success, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see another undefeated season from the Lady Terriers en route to another City/State Championship and Mayor’s Cup Championship.