A year ago, the Xavier Knights were competing in the “AAA” division of the Catholic High School Athletic League (CHSAA).
The Knights compiled a great season, ultimately winning the AAA title, and as a result, made the decision to move up into the AA division, the most competitive one in the CHSAA.
“Winning the title last year really sparked some good conversations in our Athletic Department about a potential move to the AA division,” said Xavier head coach Stephanie Boccuzzi. “At the start of the season we had over 35 students tryout for 12 spots. From the very first week of tryouts, I said to my assistant coach that I believed we had the talent and the drive to win the league.
And, that was the narrative the whole season.”
With that belief and confidence, the Knights accomplished the goal they set out at the onset of the season. After narrowing down its roster to the 12 players who would compete for the rest of the year, Xavier was confident it could compete with the best players and teams in the CHSAA.
Despite being its first season in the highest division, Xavier was excited for the opportunity to prove itself.
“It was challenging no doubt,” added Boccuzi. “We battled injuries, COVID and the difficulties of the school year, but our team culture grew and developed into what all coaches hope to see among teammates: respect, dedication, commitment and camaraderie. We worked harder at practice with each passing match, we learned from each loss, and we built relationships with one another…the boys believed they could win and that was a very palpable feeling.”
That feeling was crucial as Xavier squared off against St. Francis in the championship match, which was held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Going into the match, St. Francis had won the previous two regular season showdowns between the two teams.
“We practiced tough, worked on strategy off the court, and analyzed our areas of weakness,” Boccuzi said. “And we came ready to play.”
Xavier was led by its doubles play, as it picked up victories from Andrew Beliwine and Karl Abboud at first doubles and Liam Merrill and Henry Joyce at second doubles.
At third singles, Sohan Shah delivered a key victory to help seal the city championship for Xavier.
“It was an extremely close match but our team has so much heart and love for one another and the sport, and I really believe that carried us and was the source of our success,” said Boccuzi. “I am humbled to have had the honor to coach this team in particular. To have two wins back-to-back in two different divisions is the dream, and I believe we’ll continue to have a bright future in New York City tennis.”