In sports, we are all too familiar with the repeated cliches we hear about the “heart of a champion” and the type of determination you have to have in order to win.
But they are clichés for a reason; as often times they are true. Take the Scarsdale girls’ tennis team for instance, the reigning New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Division I Champions. The team came into this season with nearly its full roster intact from last year, and had the goal of repeating as state champions.
And they accomplished that goal, defeating Port Washington 7-0 in this year’s state finals to claim its second straight championship.
“It was very special to win it last year, the final against Syosset was a real nail biter, and we knew it was going to be tough again this year against Port Washington,” said Scarsdale head coach Jen Roane. “We had started to play them at a tournament at the beginning of the season but it got rained out, but we knew how good they were. To win 7-0, I was a bit shocked, but so proud of the way the girls fought.”
The Scarsdale girls would not be denied in its quest to repeat, and perhaps nobody embodied that sentiment more than Yelena Sahakyan. Playing third doubles alongside Maya Vora, Sahakyan was chasing down a shot deep in the corner during the first set when she rolled her ankle and was in a lot of pain.
“When I made my way over to the court, I told her that if you don’t want to continue, it’s okay. We came here to compete and win, but your health is more important,” said Roane. “She told me, ‘Coach, there is no way I’m not playing. Last year, Maya and I lost our match here, and I’m not going to let that happen again’. It was probably a bit of the adrenaline talking, but I was taken aback by the dedication and determination she had, and that was true for our entire team.”
Playing through the pain, Sahakyan & Vora won 7-5, 6-4 at third doubles to give Scarsdale one of their seven victories, while Maya Cukierman & Emma Ha were 6-1, 6-2 winners at first doubles.
Yelena Sahakyan (right) fought through an injury and won at fourth doubles alongside Maya Vora
The second doubles tandem of Kay Cottrell & Campbell Alin held on to win 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 at second doubles, and Natasha Pereira & Emily Hyman won 6-3, 6-1 at fourth doubles to complete the doubles sweep.
Giana Marks was a 6-3, 6-2 winner at second singles, and Natalie Hu brought home the Scarsdale victory with her 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 win at first singles.
Natalie Hu held on to win at first singles to help lead Scarsdale to its second straight state title
“I’m so happy, a lot of this season has been leading up to this, and we felt like we could do it,” said Hu. “Being able to celebrate with the team is the best way to end the season. I think we brought a lot of energy, and also were able to deal with the stress of being the defending champions. We were a focused team today.”
Freshman Katie Kendall, the one player who was not on the Scarsdale championship team from a year ago, was a 6-2, 6-2 winner at third singles to finalize the scoring for the Raiders.
“Sometimes teams go through a developmental year when you lost players to graduation, but Scarsdale seems to just reload, and Katie was a huge factor in doing that for us this season,” Roane added. “She’s only a ninth-grader, so she’s playing kids three-four years older than her, but she handles it so well. She’s a very steady player, and was a real solid player for us all season along. She has so much potential still, and we know she’s going to continue to get stronger and better.”
Scarsdale remains the cream of the crop in New York State tennis, and despite losing a few seniors from this year’s team, the Raiders will be ready next fall to go for its third straight state title.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org