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Commack eighth-grader Kimberly Liao wins Suffolk individual tennis title

Kimberly Liao of Commack returns a shot from

Kimberly Liao of Commack returns a shot from Stephanie Chikvashvili of Half Hollow Hills East during the Suffolk singles finals on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015 at William Floyd High School. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Kimberly Liao showed composure well beyond her years.

The Commack eighth-grader dropped the opening three games of Monday's girls tennis individual championship at William Floyd but never faltered.

The second-seeded Liao battled back and beat fourth-seeded Stephanie Chikvashvili of Half Hollow Hills East, 7-5, 6-3, to win the title. Both qualify for the state tournament beginning Oct. 31 in Latham.

"I just knew I needed to stay calm," Liao said. "I started to rally with her, got my serve back and everything started flowing. I was able to move my feet and I was consistent today."

"Kimberly is so mature and so calm and levelheaded," Commack coach Jackie Clark said. "She has an amazing work ethic and I knew from the beginning of the season that she was going to be a force to be reckoned with."

Clark said she really knew Liao was on a special run when she defeated Chikvashvili in the first team match between Commack and Hills East on Sept. 18 after dropping the first set. The two met three more times, including Monday, and Liao came out on top in each.

"I lost to her twice last year," Liao said. "This year I really knew how to play her but I don't focus on the person and I just play the ball."

In the third-place match, third-seeded Emily Shutman of Huntington beat top-seeded Jackie Bukzin of Eastport-South Manor, 6-2, 6-2, and also advanced to the state tournament.

In the doubles final, Hills West's Danah Han and Mina Sarcevic, the No. 1 seed, staged a huge comeback to defeat third-seeded Lisa Lin and Kaitlin Hibbert of Floyd, 0-6, 6-1, 6-2.

"We were just really happy to win our first match of the day and wanted to go in with a stress-free attitude," Han said. "After talking to our coach, she said 'go back to the basics, hit it crosscourt and stay consistent' and that really helped."

They were ultra consistent in turning around the match.

"I was just really proud of how we played because it was a great match," Han said. "I'm really excited to go to states."

The third doubles team representing Suffolk will be fourth-seeded Olivia Faulhaber and Mikayla Goria of Smithtown East, who defeated Gina LaRusso and Alexis Huber of Hills East, 6-1, 6-2, in the consolation match.


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