Rachel Arbitman proved herself as one of the top players in the state after winning the singles championship last season. This year, she cemented her standing not only as a great player, but as a great role model for her younger teammates.
Rather than try to defend her state singles title, she decided to switch over to doubles, pairing with eighth-grader Nyla Gershfeld to win the state crown on Nov. 4 in Latham, N.Y.
"I was a little skeptical when she wanted to give up her singles spot and play doubles," Hewlett coach Abby Samlin said, "but Rachel is a true team player and for her to want to do this is exceptional."
Of course, it wouldn't have been possible without the strong play of Gershfeld, who played at second singles all season in her second year on the team.
"Nyla really stepped it up as an eighth-grader playing under so much pressure," Samlin said.
The duo defeated Kaya and Kavina Amin of Wheatley, 7-5, 6-4, to claim the state title.
"Rachel is as much of a coach out there as a player," Samlin said. "To win this, Nyla really played great and stepped up and Rachel was just Rachel."
CHSAA team title for St. Anthony's
It was a memorable season for the St. Anthony’s girls tennis team.
There wasn’t a doubt in the mind of coach Carole Quinn that the talent was there, but with the addition of new players, the coaching staff hoped the team would come together.
They came together for an undefeated season with a state Class AA championship. The Friars defeated Archbishop Molloy, 4-1, at Alley Pond Park on Oct. 24 to earn the crown.
“We definitely thought we had the talent but didn’t think we’d go undefeated,” Quinn said. “Our biggest concern was the girls wouldn’t gel. We had a lot of first-year players, we had different friend groups, girls from different areas, but these girls connected with one another. They were amazing.”
It was the first time in program history the team went undefeated, Quinn said.
Kiki Colon and Hannah Quinn set the tone for the Friars (9-0) in the state title match, winning 6-0, 6-0 at first doubles. Colon and Quinn finished their season undefeated at first doubles and also were finalists at the CHSAA individual state tournament.
Sophia Maiorino and Sofia Licata came away with a quick victory at second doubles, and wins by Annabella Licata at second singles and Katie DeSimone at third singles clinched the title for St. Anthony’s.
Quinn also was quick to praise Kelly Rall and Riley Cherkes, who played key roles during the season as the third doubles team, as well as first singles player Lauren Hamer.
“Tennis can be so individual at times, and we've had players in the past who have made themselves more important than the team," Quinn said. “But this year, these girls wanted to win as a team and they did it. It was a really special season.”