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Afa Odiaka, Kellenberg close stay at Cedar Creek Park with victory

Players and coaches from Kellenberg and St. John the Baptist discussed their CHSAA girls tennis match at Cedar Creek Park on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, in Syosset. Credit: Newsday / Jake Falk

On an overcast, humid day at Cedar Creek Park in Seaford the atmosphere was anything but gloomy for two winless teams attempting to obtain their first win at the AA level of CHSAA tennis.

It was the last match for both teams at the Cedar Creek Park facility after a season of learning curves that went by in a flash.

"Summertime to October, many Senior Days, all the tears, blood, everything we shared together with each other since freshman year [was there]," first doubles senior Afa Odiaka said.

Both Kellenberg (1-3) and St. John the Baptist (0-4) won the A division in 2019 and 2018, respectively, and were promoted to AA.

Thursday, at the same place where Kellenberg clinched the A title, each showed why they were promoted with the match taking more than two hours, coming down to a super tiebreaker with Kellenberg coming out on top, 4-3, for its first win of the season.

Had each team won a few more games the team would have advanced to a postseason.

For St. John the Baptist, having a season, albeit short, was more than enough.

"It wouldn’t be senior season without a tennis season." third doubles senior Christa Tomczyk said.

The first win for Kellenberg was by junior first singles player Mia Devino, who defeated senior Sari Avila-Franklin, 6-1, 6-1. Next sophomore Ava Finnegan won her second singles match, 6-4, 6-4, against Laura Muia. Freshman Delia Cashin and senior Isabella Caliendo then started the super tiebreaker frenzy winning their third doubles match, 6-3, 3-6, and 14-12 by super tiebreaker. Finally, freshman Anjali Edmonds won her third singles match, 4-6, 7-6, and 10-4 by super tiebreaker to seal the win for the Firebirds.

For coach Jeanne Hart-Simonelli, who has been coaching the team for more than a decade, the win was a building block and the closing of a chapter.

"These girls have a lot of heart, a lot of soul and they have fun," Hart-Simonelli said. "It was just an awesome experience."

"They’re family…those are the memories I’m going to miss, but we’re going to have better memories at Kellenberg’s new courts."

"We’ve considered these courts our home," first doubles senior Chloe Milkowski said. "…We just kept on playing and making memories."

Devino, said the season taught her and her team that while they were able to breeze through the A division unscathed at 11-0, this year proved that work is needed to compete at the top with three straight 7-0 losses.

"We all just have to have to move our feet a bit more, just pick up our confidence" Devino said. "We didn’t really know what it was going to be like coming to this division."

Devino feels that her team the having a new facility on campus where the team can practice more and in a better environment will play a big part in that preparation.

"I’m beyond excited," Devino said. "It’s so nice to not have to drive, we can just walk to our courts and play and they’re beautiful."

Kellenberg has one more "practice" in the new facility where they will celebrate the seven seniors on the team, the coaches and the season.

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