LATHAM — Rachel Arbitman knew she needed to be at the top of her game as she entered the final of the NYSPHSAA individual girls tennis tournament Monday.
After a back and forth first set the Hewlett sophomore dialed up the intensity and rolled through Yorktown’s Caitlyn Ferrante to capture the title, 6-3, 6-0, at the Tri-City Fitness Center.
“I was really locked in,” Arbitman said. “I wasn’t looking around at the people who were there because the first set was a little rocky and I wasn’t sure I was going to win it. But in the second set I was really focused.”
Arbitman led the first game of the match, 40-15, before Ferrante fought back to get a break. That was the only time Arbitman trailed in the match.
“It feels even more amazing than I thought it would,” she said, attributing losing last year's final in aiding with her preparation. “I knew what I was getting into today so I wasn’t nervous like last year. It can be a lot with all the people sitting so close and cheering but I was definitely less nervous that last year.”
Ferrante only held serve once in the first set but battled and extended each game before Arbitman finally closed it out.
“She was determined from the beginning of this tournament to be focused and loose and ready to play,” Hewlett coach Abby Samlin said. “The pressure was on her to come back and win counties and win here and she really adjusted well. Nothing was going to stop her.”
Arbitman dropped a total of 14 games across four matches at the tournament and is Hewlett’s second state champion since 2015. A Long Island player now has been crowned NYSPHSAA champion nine of the last 14 years.
“I’ve played her before so I knew I wanted to keep things deep and not let her attack because she’s a really good player,” Arbitman said. “My serve — especially my slice serve — was so on today and that won the match for me.”
The second set was over quickly as Arbitman used an assortment of shots to put it away.
“To battle at this level and hit those shots is unbelievable,” Samlin said. “Having players like Rachel helps make everybody on our team better. Now we’re one of the top teams in Nassau County because of Rachel and some of the other players we have. It breeds competition — everyone wants to work hard and be like her. She’s a coach's dream.”