The first-ever New York State Team Tennis Championships were held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and the inaugural event did not disappoint.
Eight of the best teams, four Large Schools and four Small Schools, in the state gathered in Queens on Friday to compete for the title of state champions. In the end, Byram Hills captured the Small School State Championship, while Scarsdale claimed the Large School title.
After Scarsdale defeated Brighton 7-0 in the semifinals, it advanced into a matchup against Long Island champion Syosset, who downed Bethlehem 7-0 in its semifinal. The two undefeated squads faced off for the state title, with each presenting the other with its most difficult challenge of the season.
“I knew Syosset was going to be tough,” said Scarsdale head coach Jen Roane. “Our girls have been challenged throughout the season, but not like this.”
The two squads would go back-and-forth trading victories on the various courts. Scarsdale jumped ahead early with Giana Marks defeating Alexa Brecher at second singles, but Syosset responded as Mia Silverman & Manami Wakazono notched a third doubles victory over Daphne Lutrell & Madison Lee.
Scarsdale would then get victories from Natalie Hu, who defeated Eesha Kaushik at first singles, and Maya Cukierman, who won a three-set match over Zia Mukherjee. The Braves of Syosset would win first doubles thanks to Rachel Lin & Alex Ho’s victory over Laura Mendes & Campbell Alin, and Liv Tiegerman & Sara Gao notched a second doubles win over Yelena Sahakyan & Maya Bora.
With the overall match tied at three-all, the state championship came down to the fourth doubles court. After squeezing out the opening set in a tiebreaker, Natasha Pereira & Kay Cottrell held on to win 7-6(4), 6-3 over Abby Glenn & Amanda Huang, winning fourth doubles and sealing the state title.
“I think the win meant a little more because it was so close,” added Roane. “We had different people on the team who stepped up. My first doubles and second doubles teams, those are the first matches they've lost all season. I’m so proud of the way my third singles player came back. And our fourth doubles team stayed strong. I didn’t know if I should tell them what the overall score was; one of them wanted to know, the other didn’t. But they held it together mentally and closed it out, and I’m super happy for them.”
Scarsdale becomes the first New York State Tennis Team Champion, and finishes its season undefeated.
“They did a wonderful job putting this together, and it was a lot of fun,” said Roane. “It was nerve-wracking at the end. Every point counts, but it’s those last few that seem to be the hardest. It was a fantastic day, and I’m so proud of my team.”
“It was an emotional roller coaster. It was a great season,” said co-captain Lauren Mendes. “I’m not sure if we thought we could make it this far, but we did it. To be the first ever state champion is crazy; this is amazing.”
While Syosset’s historic season ends with a defeat, it doesn’t take away from the success it had throughout the fall.
2021 Large School Runner-Ups: Syosset
“This has been the longest season we’ve had, and it’s been a lot of fun,” said Syosset head coach Shai Fisher. “They need a break, and some downtime to recharge. But I’m so proud of what they have accomplished. The seniors will still be part of this team as we continue throughout the offseason. I know these girls will continue to work hard to get better, and the goal is to get back here next season.”
Two of those seniors are co-captains Alexa Brecher and Alex Ho, who have spent a total of 11 years combined in the Syosset program as both joined the team as middle schoolers, and won’t let the final loss overshadow the great memories they’ve been a part of.
“I’ve grown up on this team, and it’s so sad that it’s finally over,” said Ho. “I remember when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be a senior, but now I wish I could go back to seventh grade. This team has meant so much to me, has taught me so many life lessons and helped me discover myself.”
“I am so incredibly proud that we got this far. I’ll always remember a day like this. Even though we didn’t finish how we wanted to. It’s a great accomplishment to get here, and I couldn’t ask for anything more out of my high school tennis experience.”
Earlier in the day, Friends Academy advanced to the Small School Championship after it edged Oneida 3-2 in the semifinals. It moved them into a final showdown against Byram Hills, who proved to be too much and claimed the state title with a 5-0 victory.
2021 Small School Champions: Byram Hills
Alyssa Margolin defeated Isabella Sha at first singles, Chloe Bernstein won at second singles against Teah Login, and Sydney Levy rounded out the singles victories for Byram Hills by posting a win over Ava Zuckerbort.
In doubles play, Jenna Kleynerman & Daphne Bernstein beat Taylor Overstrom & Rachel Na at first doubles, while Eva Shrayer & Lily Anchin were second doubles victors against Eva Sun & Ericka Na.
“It’s pretty awesome. When we started making the run, our community got into it, and I can’t wait to celebrate with them,” said Byram Hills head coach Mike Racanelli. “It’s an honor to be the first. We’re so happy to be in this position. There are a lot of great teams out there who fought to be in this spot, but we were the only team able to finish with a win.
We worked hard and set out goals high. We knew this was possible. Great things come when you work hard, put your heart into it and stick together.”
“This was the perfect way to end the season,” said Byram Hills co-captain Eva Shryer. “We worked so hard to get here, and to win the final two matches, and to have that title in our senior year is special.”
After a slow start to the season, Friends Academy hit its stride midway through the fall and rattled off five consecutive victories heading into the state semifinals. The Quakers
“We had a slow start with a few of our top players out early, but once we got going we were very competitive this season,” said Friends Academy head coach Owen Kassimir. “Coming in second in the state championships is a thrilling result for us, and I’m proud of the girls. I’m confident the girls will put the work in during the winter and come back even stronger next year, and we expect to get back to this point next season.”
2021 Small School Runner-Ups: Friends Academy