Rachel Arbitman entered the Nassau individual girls tennis tournament this weekend as the top seed and prohibitive favorite.
The Hewlett sophomore won the title in 2017 before advancing to the state final and things were going smoothly in her quest to repeat Sunday — until the last set of the championship match.
Arbitman buckled down and refocused, holding on to defeat Calista Sha of Friends Academy, 6-1, 6-4, at Eisenhower Park.
“Coming back this year against different opponents and winning again is really great,” Arbitman said. “Nassau is one of the best counties in the state and getting through these players helps me know what to expect at states.”
Arbitman cruised through her first two matches of the tournament without losing a game before defeating Port Washington’s Thea Rabman, 6-3, 6-1, in a semifinal.
She saved two break points while up 5-4 in the second set against Sha after having an opportunity to serve for the match at 5-2.
“I kind of lost a little bit of focus,” Arbitman said. “I took a lot deep breaths and just tried to focus on only the court and what I was doing. I got it back to deuce and was able to finish off the game.”
Now Arbitman can put all her focus on getting back to the state final after falling in the championship last season.
“I want to take it match by match but my goal is to win the whole thing,” Arbitman said.
She’ll be joined by Sha and Rabman at the state tournament in Latham on October 26. Rabman defeated Steffi Antao, 6-2, 6-3, in the consolation final.
In a wide open doubles draw, Lauren Zola and Julia Gentile of South Side emerged victorious with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Cold Spring Harbor’s Maddie Richmond and Nicolette Loeffler.
“Anybody could have won it,” Gentile said. “Especially when it comes down to the final sets, it’s really who wants it more and who takes their time and really thinks. It’s not just about skill here.”
Zola and Gentile, both singles players during the regular season, came together and formed a formidable team.
“It’s easy to play with Julia because she always picks me up when I get mad at myself,” Zola said.
The pair dropped the first set of their semifinal but survived against Alina Lyakhov and Alyssa Ghassabian of Great Neck North, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
“It’s a huge adjustment — it’s a completely different game,” Zola said. “We just try to use what our coach tells us and work together to win the points.”
Lyakhov and Ghassabian beat Brittany Polevikov and Charlotte Furman of Port Washington, 7-5, 6-0, in the consolation final.