Despite the 20-mph wind gusting across the Terry Farrell Park tennis courts, the St. Anthony’s girls were locked in for their CHSAA season opener against St. John the Baptist.
Leading the Friars was sophomore Nicolina Giannola at first singles and senior Julia Mairorino at second singles in their 7-0 win over the Cougars at the Huntington Station facility on Thursday.
One of the keys to Giannola’s 6-1, 6-1 victory was her willingness to make adjustments to the adverse conditions.
"It was hard, I had to hit more topspin," Giannola said. "On one side of the court, I had to hit shorter because the ball would fly but on the other side, I had to hit it harder."
Coach Carole Quinn told her players to keep moving their feet throughout the match, which resonated with Mairorino in her 6-1, 6-1 win.
"I couldn’t just lob the ball into the court, the wind would take it," Mairorino said. "I decided to move my feet so much more because it was harder to get there."
The Friars won the program’s first state championship in 2019, but this season, the team’s talent reaches a new level.
"We’ve always been very strong doubles and singles was always questionable," assistant coach Debbie Koenig said.
"We are thrilled and confident about what our singles lineup will contribute to the team, especially with Julia and Nic," assistant coach Janine DeBellis added.
For most competitive teams, having two similarly talented singles players at the top could cause friction, but for Giannola and Mairorino, they see it as a positive.
"Having Nic is such great competition, something I’ve never had at this school before now," Mairorino said. "It will definitely elevate my level out on the court."
Giannola decided before the season that she wanted to transfer from Port Jefferson to ensure she would get a tennis season.
"Tennis is a big part of my life and to not have a season or one postponed until March because of the pandemic wouldn’t be the same, Giannola said. "I’m so happy to be here and play against girls with different game styles."
The bond between the two girls goes beyond the courts and creates motivation that will last throughout the season.
"I love Julia, she’s such a big inspiration to me because she had an injury last year and to see her come back and fight is amazing," Giannola said. "She is like my big sister and such an amazing person."
The Friars return to play on Monday against St. Francis Prep at 4 p.m. at St. John’s University.