| By Brian Coleman

New York City Boys High School Preview
The Beacon Blue Demons have dominated the boys landscape in New York City’s “A” Division the last couple of years, and will look to repeat as city champions again this season. Last season, the Blue Demons upended Cardozo in the NYC Championship 5-0.

The highlight of that match was the first singles battle between Beacon’s Oliver Sec and Cardozo’s Marcus Smith, both of whom were juniors. Sec and Smith’s match went the distance and required three sets, before Sec was able to come out victorious. Both players will be returning to their teams for their senior campaigns and should have a major impact this spring.

In the “B” Division, New Utrecht outlasted Grover Cleveland 3-2 to win the title. The contest came down to the final match at second doubles, where Gavin Zhou & Kevin Cheng edged the team of Konrad Skomial & Reynaldo Cabrera in a tight three-set match.

At the end of season Mayor’s Cup Individual tournament, top-seeded Ethan Nittolo of Townsend Harris knocked off second-seeded William Trang 6-3, 6-0 at boys’ singles, while second-seeded duo Douglas Nover & Anthony Santino of St. Francis Prep defeated Alexander Irikura & Genji Noguchi of Stuyvesant.


Player to Watch: Ethan Nittolo ♦ Townsend Harris
One of the biggest accomplishments a high school athlete in New York City can have is coming out on top at the end-of-the-year Mayor’s Cup. No matter the sport, the Mayor’s Cup is one of those things that all athletes in the city relish to play in.

Townsend Harris’ junior Ethan Nittolo entered the boys singles draw last season as the number one seed. He lived up to that seeding, going through the whole tournament without dropping a set on his way to the Mayor’s Cup title.

“Going into the tournament I felt pretty confident,” said Nittolo, who is getting ready for his senior campaign for the Townsend Harris Hawks. “I knew most of the kids so I felt pretty confident and sort of knew what to expect.”

Nittolo met second-seeded William Trang of Brooklyn Tech in the final and won handily 6-3, 6-0 to take home the trophy.

“It was pretty hot the last day we played and I felt like my fitness was just ten times better,” added Nittolo. “I knew if I could keep him out there long, keep him moving and make the points long he wouldn’t really able to come back.”

His fitness and stamina is something that Nittolo considers to be one of his biggest strengths. He has continued to work on that this offseason and feels confident heading into this season.

“I’ve been training all-year round, so fitness is a huge part of my game right now,” he said. “Going into this upcoming season I’m pretty confident that the first couple of matches I’ll be able to work and figure out my opponents in my division, so when I meet up with them later in the season I’ll have a pretty good idea of what will work against them and how I can break down their game.”

Nittolo will lead the charge for Townsend Harris this season as the Hawks will look to build on an 8-4 regular season and a third-round appearance in the city playoffs. The senior believes his team is capable of making some noise this spring.

“I just want to do my part for the team, win my matches and keep the team motivated during practices and during matches,” said Nittolo. “I think if we stay consistent throughout the entire match and throughout each position, it’ll be a good thing for us. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t win our division and I think we can definitely make a run in the playoffs.”

Following this season, Nittolo will take his talents up to the University at Buffalo to continue his tennis career.

“I just got a great feel from the team and the school is beautiful,” said Nittolo. “I really like what the coaches have been doing up there. I feel confident that my game and fitness will really improve up there.”

But before he moves on to his college career, Nittolo will look to lead the Hawks to a division title. His fitness has only gotten better in the offseason and he has fine tuned some other facets of his game as well.

“The biggest thing I wanted to improve on was my mental game,” he said. “You know, staying tougher in the point. Just knowing my game better and knowing what I can and can’t do well.”

Townsend Harris opens up its season at home against Forest Hills on March 17th.


2015 Teams to Watch
►Bronx: Bronx Science
The Bronx Science Wolverines had a bit of a down year in 2014, going just 6-6 on the season and falling to Brooklyn Tech in the city quarterfinals. Despite losing a couple of seniors from the team a year ago, the Wolverines have reloaded and bring to the table a young and talented cast of players that will make them a threat in the Bronx this spring.

It returns its second doubles tandem of Peter Coulombe & Remi Kumar, who are both now seniors. The duo won the only match of Bronx Science’s quarterfinal loss last year, and will be integral in the team’s success.

The Wolverines hope that an infusion of younger talent at singles can help make up for the departed seniors from last year. Neeraj Sakhrani, who played second singles a year ago as a freshman, will step into the first singles role and hopes to have a breakout sophomore campaign.

Brooklyn: Brooklyn Tech
Brooklyn Tech hopes to build on a fantastic 2014 season that saw it reach the city semifinals. The Engineers came up one point short against Cardozo in the semis, losing all three singles matches, for their only defeat of the season. But Brooklyn Tech was a young team last season including two sophomores and a junior playing singles, making them a serious contender in the city this season.

The Engineers will have to make up for the loss of its second doubles tandem which includes last year’s Captain Robert Godkin. Those young and talented singles players will need to help fill the leadership void. Led by William Trang & Philip Raytburg on the singles card, Brooklyn Tech will look to once again be the team to beat in Brooklyn.

Manhattan: High School of Environmental Studies
The High School of Environmental Studies enters 2015 following disappointing finishes in each of the last two seasons. The Eagles have soared through the last two regular seasons without a loss, but have been eliminated early in the playoffs each time. With a few new fresh faces, it hopes to get over that hump and go deeper in the city playoffs.

The Eagles graduated seniors at both first and second singles, but head coach Daniel Mauck is confident in the players he has to replace them. Senior Kevin Lei, who played third singles a year ago, will have some big shoes to fill as he moves to the top of the lineup card, as will senior Jesse Chan, who had a fantastic junior campaign a year ago.

The strength of the High School of Environmental Studies is its depth. It has a bunch of experienced seniors who will need to make up for the losses at the top.

Queens: Townsend Harris
The Hawks of Townsend Harris come into the 2015 season with not much turn over from last year. There was only one senior on that roster which means the Hawks bring back the majority of its contributing players from last year’s squad.

Townsend Harris will be led by Ethan Nittolo. The senior won the Mayor’s Cup singles title last season as a junior and will look to build on that success again this year. He will have some help at the other singles positions as well, with Maxim Prohorov and Mitchell Mu. Both contributed significantly as freshman last season, and should be even better this season with another year of experience. The Hawks will look to give powerhouse Cardozo a fight in League A1.

Staten Island: Tottenville
The Tottenville Pirates were one of the best teams in all of New York City last season, going 12-0 in the regular season before falling to Stuyvesant in the third-round of the “A” Division playoffs. The Pirates will have to make up for the loss of two of its singles players from a year ago, but should be right there in the thick of things in Staten Island this spring.

Daniel Rozhkov will most likely step in and be a factor on singles. Last year as a junior, Rozhkov won 11 of his 12 matches, with his only loss coming in Tottenville’s playoff defeat. On the doubles side, Joseph Namtalov enjoyed a fabulous sophomore campaign, winning 12 of his 13 doubles contests with various partners.

With more than capable underclassmen joining experienced seniors, the Pirates will look to build on its 8-4 record last season and go deeper into the city playoffs.

Key dates
Individual Singles and Doubles Qualifier Tournament: Saturday, April 18
​►Singles and Doubles First and Second Rounds: Monday, April 20
​►Singles and Doubles Quarterfinals: Tuesday, April 21
​►Singles and Doubles Semifinals: Wednesday, April 22
​►Singles and Doubles Finals: Thursday, April 23
​►Team Quarterfinals: Monday, May 18
​►“A” Division Team Semifinals: Tuesday, May 19
​►“B” Division Team Semifinals: Wednesday, May 20
​►“A” Division Team Finals: Thursday, May 21
​►“B” Division Team Finals: Tuesday, May 26
​►New York State Singles and Doubles Championships: Thursday-Sunday, May 28-31
​►Team Mayors Cup: Saturday-Sunday, May 30-31
​►Singles and Doubles Mayor’s Cup: Saturday-Sunday, May 30-June 7


New York City Girls High School Preview
Beacon has dominated the girls tennis landscape in New York City in recent years. They are the two-time defending city champions in the “A” Division, beating Cardozo in the final for the second consecutive season last year.

Led by a cast of excellent juniors, Beacon was able to get past Cardozo 4-1 and will seek to repeat again this season. The team was also well-represented at the Mayor’s Cup as the doubles tandem of Alexus Gill & Isis Gill beat their Beacon teammates Michelle Khaimov & Victoria Sec 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

Bronx Science sophomore Brianna Williams knocked off fourth-seeded Brittny Ferreria of Poly Prep 6-3, 7-5 to win her second consecutive singles final.

In the “B” Division, Springfield Gardens was able to win its second consecutive championship, defeating Lab Museum High School 4-1 in the title match. The Golden Eagles were able to overcome a first singles loss by sophomore Annastasia McKinney and win three of the final four matches to come out victorious.

Player to Watch: Bronx Science Sophomore Sarah Rahman
Last season, Bronx Science freshman Sarah Rahman restarted her tennis career after nearly three years away from the game while focusing on academics. After shaking off the rust one would expect her to have, Rahman won all 14 of the singles matches she played and quickly regained her form.

“The first time I played I felt awkward and uncoordinated. It was like I was playing tennis for the first time in my life,” said Rahman. “However, as I began to play on a daily basis, little by little it all started to come back. It mainly caused me to lose my footwork, my timing, and my ability to read the speed and the spin of the ball. It took the whole season and the entire summer of last year to get back to the level at which I was before I stopped playing.”

Rahman certainly got back to the level that saw her reach number one in the USTA Eastern rankings a few years ago. After going through the regular season and playoffs undefeated, she reached the semifinals of the Mayor’s Cup, falling just short to her Bronx Science teammate Brianna Williams.

“Playing the Mayor’s Cup last year was very exciting and a great confidence booster,” said Rahman. “Brianna and I are not only on the same high school team, but we are also great friends and have known each other since we started playing junior USTA tournaments around the age of eight. Losing to her in the semifinals in three long sets after not having played for three years, and having just picked up my racket about a month before the season, gave me so much joy and confidence.”

Now a sophomore, Rahman will look to use the confidence she has gained over the last year to build on her standout freshman campaign. Along with Williams, the duo gives Bronx Science a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup card.

Rahman said the key to shaking off that rust last season was just trying to work on getting her timing and explosiveness back. Missing all that time can take away some of your tennis timing and instincts, something she regained as the season progressed.

“After not competing and not playing matches for such a long time, I lost that confidence and match experience,” said Rahman. “At the beginning of the season last year, I felt a lot of pressure and nerves. However, as I played more matches, I began to feel more confident and less nervous.”

With that match experience back and her confidence only growing, Rahman could be headed for an even better sophomore campaign this season. She spent a lot of time this offseason trying to work on the little things in her game and feels ready with the spring season approaching.

“My offseason has been pretty busy,” she said. “I’ve mainly working on my serve, which is the weakest part of my game. I’ve also been trying to improve my forehand, by adding more spin to my shots. I’m happy to be back playing tennis again, playing the sport I love, and I’m working harder than ever.”


2015 Teams to Watch
Bronx: Bronx Science

The Bronx Science Wolverines enjoyed a number of program firsts last season, including its first ever berth in the Team Mayor’s Cup as well as notching its first win over Stuyvesant in more than 10 years. Despite those firsts, the Wolverines finished at 6-6, falling short of the expectations it set for itself.

With just one consistent starter lost to graduation from last year, Bronx Science could be an extremely dangerous team in 2015. It returns Williams, now a junior, who is seeking her third consecutive Mayor’s Cup singles title. At second singles, the Wolverines feature sophomore Sarah Raman, whose only singles loss last season was to Williams in the Mayor Cup semifinals.

The talented underclassmen at the top of the lineup card will allow some of the experienced veteran players to shift down to doubles, creating a lot of depth. The Wolverines will add talented freshman Sofie Levine to the singles card as well.

Brooklyn: James Madison
Last season, James Madison put out a lineup that featured just two seniors, and the rest of the roster was made up of freshman and sophomores. One of those seniors was four-year varsity player Erika Tinalli, who played first singles and helped Madison reach the “A” Division quarterfinals.

The Lady Knights leaned on a number of freshman and sophomores last year, and another year of experience should make them ready to contend in Brooklyn this year. One of those underclassmen was freshman Rosa Aksanov, who finished tied for the second-most wins last year. She won 11 matches overall, including going 1-1 in the playoffs, at third singles and really burst onto the scene. Sophomore Tamila Alatifzade was right behind her teammate with 10 wins on the year, forming a 1-2 singles punch that should help Madison go deeper in this year’s playoffs.

Manhattan: Beacon
Beacon won its second consecutive city title last season, knocking off a very good Cardozo team 4-1 in the city championship. Led by Isis Gill, first singles, and her sister Alexus, second singles, Beacon rolled to an 11-1 record, with the lone loss coming to Bronx Science, and will return the majority of the players from last year’s squad.

Talented freshman Victoria Sec gave Beacon an incredible amount of depth last season. She went 5-1 on the year and won all three of her playoff contests, including a 6-3, 6-2 win in the city championship. With another year of experience, Sec should be even better this season, and along with the Gill sisters, will make it tough for any opponent to notch a win in singles competition.

Beacon will have to make up for the loss of its second doubles tandem, Isadora Braune & Sara Levy Lambert, both of whom were seniors last season and reached the Mayor’s Cup quarterfinals. With the plethora of depth ready to replace them though, Beacon should once again be considered a contender in New York City.

Queens: Cardozo
Cardozo has been in the city championship for the last three seasons, winning it all in 2012 and falling short to Beacon in each of the last two seasons. Despite losing its second and third singles players to graduation, Cardozo is again a favorite to go far in the playoffs.

The Lady Judges will be led by arguably the best player in the city, senior Sabrina Xiong. She is currently ranked 24th nationally, and has already committed to continue her tennis career at Harvard University next year. She didn’t lose a single match last season, including notching Cardozo’s lone point in the city championship, beating Beacon’s Isis Gill 6-1, 6-2. Xiong recently competed in the USTA National Selection Tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio, reaching the Round of 16.

Cardozo hopes to get back to the city title match again this season, and will lean on Xiong to carry the load at the top of the lineup card.

Staten Island: McKee/Staten Island Tech
McKee/Staten Island Tech dominated League A4 last season, going 10-0 in the regular season and eventually reaching the city semifinals. The Seagulls lost a tough 3-2 contest to Cardozo, but on a team with no contributing seniors, it showed that it will be a definite threat this spring.

Sophia Kryloff anchored the Seagulls last season and was the oldest player on the roster as just a junior. Kryloff went 7-1 on the season, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Cardozo’s Sabrina Xiong. At second singles, Staten Island Tech featured standout freshman Anastasiya Malinouskaya, who went undefeated last season.

The young talent on the Seagulls was clear last season as both the first and second doubles duos were made up of a freshman and sophomore. Heading into this season with the same lineup and with another year of experience, Staten Island Tech hopes to improve on its semifinal run a year ago.

Key dates
►Individual Singles and Doubles Qualifier Tournament: Saturday, April 18
Singles and Doubles First and Second Rounds: Monday, April 20
Singles and Doubles Quarterfinals: Tuesday, April 21
Singles and Doubles Semifinals: Wednesday, April 22
Singles and Doubles Finals: Thursday, April 23
Team Quarterfinals: Monday, May 18
►"A” Division Team Semifinals: Tuesday, May 19
“B” Division Team Semifinals: Wednesday, May 20
“A” Division Team Finals: Thursday, May 21
“B” Division Team Finals: Tuesday, May 26
New York State Singles and Doubles Championships: Thursday-Sunday, May 28-31
Team Mayors Cup: Saturday-Sunday, May 30-31
Singles and Doubles Mayor’s Cup: Saturday-Sunday, May 30-June 7

Brian Coleman

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