Pink tennis balls flew around the courts at Commack High School on Monday afternoon for the third annual Teacher/Player Tennis Match to benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast cancer awareness organization.
The idea, brought to the team three years ago when coach Shane Helfner took the reins, is that members of the girls varsity tennis team each ask a teacher to partner up with them for a double-elimination tournament.
Some decisions were strategic, like sophomore Tracey Rosenlicht’s choice of guidance counselor Jackie Clark, who plays in United States Tennis Association Leagues and is a member of its regional board.
Some were in the interest of a good time, like Brittany Molin, a senior who chose her former history teacher Michael Kaminicki -- one of the liveliest on the court Monday.
“I think I just pulled every muscle in my body going for that one,” yelled Kaminicki, 39, on his hands and knees on the court after lunging for a ball hit by his opponent that slowly rolled over the edge of the net to his side of the court.
Helfner said he thought the event would be a good way to connect the rest of the school and the community to the tennis program. He said the students -- members of his team and otherwise -- get excited when they know one of their teachers is going to be on the court.
“The students get a chance to see their teachers outside the classroom,” he said. “They have a lot of fun with it. This is the best day of the year.”
On the other side of the fence, parents of the players organized a Chinese auction - this year with donations from more than 60 local stores - and sold raffle tickets to benefit Komen for the Cure.
Maria Vieytez, of Commack, worked with other team parents to organize the auction. Her daughter Carmen, a junior at the high school, has been on the team for three years, and her older daughter, who was also on the team, graduated last year.
“It really does bring everyone together,” she said, adding that her whole family helps put the prize baskets together at home. “The kids, the parents, the teachers, we’re all trying to help and make everyone aware of this disease.”
After almost two hours of play, the final elimination match came down to Vieytez’ daughter Carmen and her teacher Jesus Valdes, who took on Rosenlicht and Clark.
In the end, Rosenlicht and Clark were victorious.
“Last year we came in second place,” said Clark. “It was a very tight match and just one of those days. But this year -- first.”
At the end of the tournament, Helfner called out the raffle winners, which garnered $1,165, he said, and handed out medals to all participants and trophies to the top three teams.
“We’re glad that everyone could participate and have a good time for a good cause today,” he said. “And teachers, I expect you to keep these trophies on your desks.”