This story first appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of New York Tennis Magazine. Click Here to read the full digital edition.
McKee/Staten Island Tech senior Miriam Aziz concluded her high school career this past fall, and did so in grand fashion.
Aziz won the Public School Athletic League’s Girls Tennis Championship for the second straight year, defending her spot as the top singles player in New York City. After downing Liza London of Brooklyn Tech in the quarterfinals, Aziz took out Curtis’ Brianna Shaw in the semifinals.
In the championship match, Aziz defeated Shakima Hotaki of the Queens School of Inquiry 6-3, 6-2 to win her second consecutive title.
“I think it was really cool to win back-to-back because I had played the tournament in my freshman and sophomore years. I got closer each year, but then in my junior year I managed to pull through,” said Aziz. “I’m just proud that I was able to come back each and do a little better.”
In her junior season, because she won the PSAL title, Aziz advanced to the New York State Federation Championships, which brings together the winners of the PSAL, the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association (CHSAA), the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) and the Association of Independent Athletic Association Schools (AISAA), to decide the state champion. Aziz came up short a year ago, but bounced back in her senior year to claim the state title, defeating Archbishop Molloy’s Kaitlyn Mendoza 6-0, 6-0.
“It’s being able to take the loss, turn around and learn from it, and not let it hit you too hard,” Aziz said of bouncing back from previous losses. “Having a year in between those state matches allowed me to improve on my game, and play my best when it counted.”
Tennis has been a big part of Aziz’s life since she was a kid and was raised in a family that loved sports. Both her uncle and aunts were collegiate tennis players, her father was a member of the Crew and Squash teams at Columbia, and her brother was a nationally ranked junior while growing up in the Eastern section.
“Being able to be around people who know what it is like to go through these things has helped,” she says. “Going through and dealing with both training and school, it was always kind of normal for me growing up in an athletic family.”
Finding that balance between academics and athletics is always a challenging needle to thread, and even more so when attending a top institution like Staten Island Tech, one of the better academic schools in the city.
That dedication and success both in the classroom and on the tennis court led her to being named a recipient of the prestigious Wingate Award, which honors PSAL seniors for outstanding achievements in academics and athletics.
“A lot of thought goes into who receives that award, and the fact that they came up with my name means a lot,” said Aziz. “I’m most proud of being able to manage my time, and balance school and athletics while going to one of the hardest schools in the city; I’ve learned that school isn’t everything, and tennis isn’t everything, so taking time to focus on both is so important.”
Aziz is a powerful player who likes to play aggressive on court, and finds that her strength is dictating points and avoiding getting sucked into long rallies. Her defense is something she says she wants to improve on, and continues to work on that under the guidance of her primary coach Catarina Lindqvist-Ryan, an assistant coach at Rutgers University who enjoyed a very nice professional career which includes victories over Steffi Graf, Virginia Wade and Pam Shriver.
“I’ve been playing with Catarina about two-three times a week for the past 10 years,” said Aziz. “She has had a huge impact on my development as a tennis player. Working with her, as well as having successful players in my family, has really helped me.”
Aziz has not decided on where she will attend college yet, but hopes to be able to play varsity tennis wherever she goes. If her constant progress during her years as a high school student and athlete is any indication, Aziz will no doubt be successful no matter what road she decides to go down.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org