Edward Liao of Commack competes in the singles finals of the...

Edward Liao of Commack competes in the singles finals of the 2023 NYSPHSAA Boys Tennis State Championship at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on June 4. Credit: Louis Lanzano

Commack senior Edward Liao, the defending state singles champion and Newsday’s 2023 Long Island Player of the Year, will not be playing high school tennis this season after forgoing his amateur status and electing to play tougher competition in tournament play.

Liao finished the 2023 season with a 23-0 record, led the Cougars to the Suffolk County Large School championship and went on to become the first Commack tennis player to win the state singles title. Since then, he competed in national tournaments that included prize money, winning the title at one in Williamsburg, Va. 

Liao was hoping to return to the Cougars and defend his title, but New York State Public High School Athletic Association rules state that a high school athlete cannot maintain amateur standing if they receive an award or prize money that exceeds $500.

Liao said on Friday that there was an avenue to returning to the Cougars that involved returning prize money he had won, but he said he intends to keep playing the national events so he can compete against a better level of talent.

“Playing those events and facing that level of play is going to better prepare me for college,” said Liao, who will play for Yale next year. “I looked into what might be possible to get back to high school, but we just couldn’t work it out.”

He has not competed in a team match this season and the Cougars were 8-1 entering play Friday behind the play of seniors James Yu and Joe Romito and junior Eric Benderly.

Mark Mensch, the tennis coordinator for Section XI, the governing body for school sports in Suffolk, said he discovered the prize money issue while reviewing data that county teams had input to the website it uses to track team and player performance.

“The system showed that he’d won the prize money so I reached out to the school’s athletic director to explain the situation to him,” Mensch said.

“It’s a really sad situation,” Liao said last week while exploring avenues to rejoin his team. “It’s my senior year. We have a lot of seniors on our team. I want to be competing with my team. One thing that we haven’t accomplished is winning a state [team] title and I felt like we had a chance.”

On Friday he said, “I might not be playing, but those are still my guys and I’m going to be going to the matches to root them on.”


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