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Syosset's Katie Cirella has big tennis shoes to fill
The first singles slot at Syosset possesses a certain cachet.
The Braves’ top girls tennis player has won either the state championship, the Nassau championship, or both, over the past three seasons, and has anchored a Syosset team that has won the last four Long Island crowns.
So when junior Katie Cirella took the court for her first match at first singles Monday, in Syosset’s season-opener at Roslyn, she knew exactly what she was getting into.
“Since eighth-grade I’ve been on this team looking up at the first singles players, so to finally play at No. 1 is pretty cool,” Cirella said. “Everyone is looking up to me to try to win my match, so it’s hard. It’s a lot of pressure, but I’m going to try to do my best.”
Cirella, who played third singles for Syosset last season, passed her first test by beating Roslyn’s Marissa Luchs, 6-3, 6-1, as she displayed a powerful forehand and net game. Cirella also broke every one of Luchs’ service games.
“Katie looks much stronger this year,” Syosset coach Larry Levane said. “She played all summer so she’s in great shape, and I know she’s going to have a great year.”
Hannah Camhi, a 2011 Syosset graduate who now plays for Brown, won the Nassau singles title in 2010 and 2011, and also took home the state title in 2011. Vivian Cheng, who now plays for Columbia, was the Nassau runner-up in 2012 but still went on to win the state championship.
“Katie’s got tough acts to follow, that’s for sure, but she’s a competitor and she’ll hold her own this year,” Levane said. “It’s always tough to play first singles. The girls compete with each other [in practice] trying to get to that position, and then sometimes when they get there, they’re not too happy about it because the competition is unbelievable. But Katie has never shied away from a tough match, so she’s going to handle it OK. She’ll give it every ounce of effort each time, and that’s all you can ask for.”
But while Cirella wants to continue Syosset’s winning tradition by leading the Braves to another championship, she’s decided not to follow directly in the footsteps of Camhi and Cheng. Cirella will not compete for the Nassau singles championship later this fall, and instead will vie for the county doubles crown with her partner, Rhea Malhotra, Syosset’s second singles player.
Cirella and Malhotra have competed together in the county doubles tournament in each of the last two seasons, and both times came up just short of qualifying for the state championships by finishing fourth. The top three pairs advance to the state tournament.
“Our goal is to get to states this year,” Cirella said. “I just want to do my best and win as many matches as possible, and hopefully my teammates will win their matches too and we can win another championship.”
Either way you slice it, Syosset’s first singles player has championships on her mind. It just comes with the territory.