Newsday Player of the Year: Stephan Gershfeld, Hewlett, Jr.
Stephan Gershfeld left no doubt that he was the dominant force in boys tennis — on Long Island and across New York State — this season. A Hewlett junior with a wide-ranging arsenal to score points, he capped a 26-0 season in singles by winning a second straight Nassau individual singles title and then capturing the state public school singles championship.
He finished the feat in style at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center by downing second-seeded Jason Shuler of Scarsdale in a three-set semifinal and top-seeded Emil Grantcharov of New Rochelle in straight sets in the championship. Shuler was the only player to take a set from Gershfeld, but that triumph was his first over the Raiders senior after dropping all seven of their meetings in USTA play.
“The states were the pinnacle, the really big ‘wow’ for me,” Gershfeld said.
He is the first Hewlett player to win the state singles title since 1991.
Gershfeld scored with a strong serve that went for aces or service winners, a quick darting style across the baseline that got to everything and a drop shot that falls like a brick after just clearing the net. “The variety of shots in my game makes it unpredictable [for opponents],” he said.
Added Bulldogs coach Joyce Raikos: “I love every part of his game.”
Suffolk Player of the Year: Edward Liao, Commack, So.
Let us count the ways this was an exceptional season for Edward Liao.
He repeated as the Suffolk individual singles champion. The sophomore led Commack to a 22-1 mark, the county and Long Island team titles and a berth in the state championship match. And he finished his season 25-1 in singles play, the only loss coming in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
“He has a game with virtually no weaknesses,” Commack coach Jimmy Delavante said after the Cougars topped Roslyn, 4-3, for the Long Island Division I crown. “He not only set the standard for us, but was also an excellent team leader.”
Albert Hu, Great Neck South, So.
A lefthander with strong ground strokes from the baseline and a relentless serve-and-volley attack, Hu dealt with early injuries, came on late and reached the Nassau individual singles championship match for a second straight season. The sophomore was 11-2 in singles. He dropped just seven games across four sets as he reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
Chris Qi, Harborfields, Sr.
Qi was the portrait of consistency at first singles for Harborfields. In the regular season and postseason in team play, he lost only one match, going 15-1. In the Suffolk individual singles tournament, he played for the championship for a second straight year and in the state individual singles tourney, he reached the quarterfinals. In each of those it took the top-seeded player to oust him.
Jeffrey Rosario, St. Anthony’s, Jr.
With a stellar two-handed backhand that was equal parts strength and accuracy, Rosario won the CHSAA individual singles title for a second straight year. Rosario went 10-1 at first singles in the regular season as the Friars finished 7-4 and then won two matches for the Catholic individual title.
Ward Melville’s Shashank Pennabadi, Fr., and Aron Bursztyn, Sr.
It was a team forged when Bursztyn’s younger brother and partner suffered a back injury, but proved a stellar combination. Bursztyn showed power and poise and Pennabadi added quick reactions and agility as the duo teamed up to win the Suffolk doubles championship. They took third place in the state tournament.
Roslyn’s Gavin Koo, Jr., and Drew Hassenbein, 7th grade
When the supremely confident veteran Koo and ultra-talented Hassenbein — who teammates call "Hollywood" — teamed up late in the season, they became a force to be reckoned with. The duo rolled to the Nassau doubles championship and reached the Round of 16 in the state tournament.
Coach of the Year: Herman Lim, Wheatley
Lim was the steady hand on the tiller as Wheatley sailed to a perfect 19-0 record and won the Division II state championship. Sophomore Aaron Raja called Lim “a diligent strategist who could see things during a match we might miss.” Lim explained that once the Wildcats had beaten every team once to go to 7-0, “it was just a matter of keeping them believing in what they could do.”