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7 Long Island HS tennis teams grapple with vaccination restrictions at state tourney

The girls tennis team championships at the National

The girls tennis team championships at the National Tennis Center in Queens require that players be partially vaccinated in order to compete. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan/Joseph D. Sullivan

There are seven Long Island high school tennis teams in contention for the two spots in next Friday's New York State Public High School Athletic Association girls team championships at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.

At least one of those teams is certain it would not be able to send its regular lineup because of the city's COVID-19 restrictions for indoor events, which require that all competitors have at least one vaccination.

Bayport-Blue Point will face Friends Academy on Monday at 2 p.m. at Eisenhower Park in the small school division with the winner advancing to play on Friday in Queens.

"If we win, our lineup in Queens will be different due to the vaccine requirement," Bayport-Blue Point coach Keith Sharf said via text message. "We’re just taking it one step at a time and are working our hardest in practice to play the best we’ve played all season against Friends Academy on Monday."

Asked about the status of their players, Friends Academy coach Owen Kassimir replied in an email, "I don’t know yet."

Only one of the seven teams said it was certain that it will be able to use its regular lineup: Half Hollow Hills East.

Half Hollow Hills East is one of four semifinalists in the Suffolk postseason tournament for large schools. It will meet Harborfields, while Westhampton will face Floyd in Monday's semifinals, with the county championship match Tuesday and the Long Island championship against Nassau champion Syosset scheduled for Wednesday. The winner of Wednesday’s match advances to play at the National Tennis Center.

"If we were to make it, the vaccine mandate would not affect our team actually," Hills East coach Steve Ferantello said through a text message. "[We] would be able to put our regular lineup on the court."

NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said all sections received the protocols for playing at the National Tennis Center on Sept. 9 and that it specifically said that participants must comply with the venue’s restrictions in order to compete.

"They know the requirements, but we haven’t specifically asked our players about vaccinations," Westhampton athletic director Kathy Masterson said. "I did send an email to all the tennis parents early on because I thought it the diligent thing to do, but the decision is up to them. We have hard matches to win to get there so we’re not counting any chickens. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it."

"We haven’t asked the players," Floyd coach Dave Pia said via text message. "Right now we’re concentrating on our next match."

Harborfields athletic director Rob Franco said he "couldn’t comment" on the vaccination status of the players while adding "we all just want the team to keep winning."

"The truth is that right now we don’t know the [vaccination] status of every player," Syosset athletic director Drew Cronin said. "We also know that a players’ status could change between now and the match on Wednesday."

The girls tennis singles and doubles individual championships are currently being held indoors in Schenectady without any vaccination requirements.

Zayas explained in an interview with Newsday earlier this week that state championship events are planned long in advance, including contracts with the venues, hotel and travel accommodations for participants from all over the state and appointing of game officials among other things. He said the logistics of changing a site on short notice would be virtually impossible.

"In my opinion, it’s obvious this is going to be a problem for many teams," Pia wrote in a text. "The site needs to be changed."

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