The last time Port Washington tennis players Lauren Livingston and Liz Kallenberg were on a court together, they were celebrating a county championship -- for badminton.
This fall, they're hoping to recreate their winning ways in tennis, where Port Washington returns nine of 11 starters from a team that was narrowly defeated in the Nassau title match last season by four-time defending Long Island champion, Syosset.
Latest HS sports stories
"We really want to bring that success into tennis," said Kallenberg, who won the Nassau badminton singles title in each of the last two seasons and will play first doubles in tennis. "The confidence I got from winning those championships in badminton just comes into my tennis game . . . With this team, we can come together and win it, and after last year that would be amazing."
But does success on the badminton court translate to success on the tennis courts? Port Washington tennis coach Stan Makover says yes, but didn't always feel that way.
Makover said that when he first started coaching tennis nearly 40 years ago, players "wouldn't touch" a badminton racket in fear of ruining their tennis swing. In tennis, players keep a tight, locked wrist when hitting a tennis ball, but in badminton they snap or "break" their wrists when hitting a birdie.
But Makover was truly convinced there was no harm in playing both sports when a former player of his, Megan Zebroski, won four individual badminton titles and two individual tennis titles from 2001-2004. He says now that it could even help players with their volleys, conditioning and overhead shots, and welcomes Port Washington's badminton coach, David O'Connor, to address the tennis team at the end of the fall season to recruit for badminton in the spring.
"The two sports go hand-in-hand with hand-eye coordination and the speed of badminton," Makover said. "It's shown to be no problem . . . and you can see that our tennis teams and badminton teams have had great success and great players here over the years."
Livingston and Kallenberg agreed that playing badminton has helped their tennis games.
"Badminton is a lot quicker so it helps you with your reflexes," said Livingston, who will play second singles in tennis. "You hit a lot of smashes in badminton, so it helps you with your overheads and serves in tennis."
Livingston and Kallenberg have the championship pedigree to help deliver Port Washington's first Nassau tennis title since 2008, but the team also has depth, with fellow senior Ally Linder at first singles and junior Sarah Seeman returning at third singles.
"I think we're really loaded and deep this year so we have a good shot at the county title," Livingston said. "It'd be really exciting to win in tennis, especially as a senior."
Syosset graduated state singles champion Vivian Cheng but returns five starters, led by Katie Cirella, Rhea Malholtra and Lexee Shapiro, to try and win its fifth consecutive Long Island title. Manhasset returns all three of its top singles players, including Nassau singles semifinalist, senior Nicole Koskovolis, who is also a top contender to win the singles title. Herricks' Taylor Cosme is another player to watch in the singles tournament.
Half Hollow Hills East is going for the three-peat. The team returns Vanessa Scott at first singles, and at first doubles returns Alison Huber, who was part of the doubles pair that won back-to-back Suffolk individual titles. Hills East has won 33 consecutive matches against Suffolk opponents, and should again be the class of League I.
In League III, East Islip returns all four of its singles players, including junior Karen Serina, who entered the season with a 60-0 record in league matches over her four-year varsity career.
Ward Melville is the favorite in League V, returning Sabrina Ferretti at first singles. Floyd returns its first singles player, freshman Emily Fernandez, and is the favorite in League VII with East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson, Ross and Westhampton. Eighth-grader Jackie Bukzin was a Suffolk singles semifinalist last season and returns to lead Eastport-South Manor. Senior Aimee Manfredo from Shoreham-Wading River was a finalist in the Suffolk singles tournament, and along with Bukzin and Serina will be a top contender for the county singles title.
St. Francis Prep won its 15th consecutive CHSAA league and state championships last season, and is riding a 213-match winning streak against CHSAA opponents. But this year the team is starting six inexperienced freshmen after losing its top players to transfers and graduation. Lauren Munari leads the team and could also contend for the CHSAA individual singles title, along with Sacred Heart junior Grace Graham and Kellenberg sophomore Nicole Vassalle.
This could be the year that Sacred Heart overtakes St. Francis in the CHSAA 'AA' division, while Kellenberg and Our Lady of Mercy will compete as the top two teams in the 'A' division.
Portledge, which has won four of the last five IPPSAL titles, is led by Domanique Wojnorowski, Julia Khan and Adele Sukhov.