Friends Beats Great Neck North For Nassau County Title

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The Nassau County Girls High School Final pitted tough foes as second-seed Friends Academy and fourth- seed Great Neck North took to the courts of Eisenhower Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Friends Academy was coming off a win against defending champion Manhasset in the semifinals and Great Neck North upset top seeded Cold Spring Harbor. On this day, not only would the teams have to overcome their opponents but also the conditions as the weather was in the 40's with wind gusts that made things difficult for everyone.

During the regular season these two teams met twice with the teams splitting those meetings. 

The first match off the court was second singles, as Calista Sha of Friends Academy defeated Alina Lyakhov 6-2, 6-0. Moments later, Friends took a 2-0 lead when third singles player Morgan Wilkins defeated Alyssa Ghassabian 6-2, 6-0.

"I think I played pretty well considering the conditions,” said Wilkins. “I'm a senior and I worked hard with my teammates all year, so it feels good to win my final match."   

Kelsey Nathan and Julia Kasinki got Great Neck North on the board with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Elisabeth Quick and Brook Damashi at third doubles. This cut the lead to 2-1 for Friends Academy, until Marina Hilbert and Ashley Yu earned a straight set victory 6-2, 6-4 at first doubles, pushing Friends ahead 3-1 and within one win of a county title.

The fourth doubles team of Juliet D'Aversa and Parisa Vahid were able to secure that last point for Friends Academy, defeating Shannon Nassi and Amy Shteyman 6-1, 6-4 to clinch the championship. 

“It feels amazing. It’s a great win for the team and the program,” said first-year Friends Academy coach Gino Uterano. “We got better and better as the season went on and beat some tough competition along the way. We worked really hard and I’m very proud of these girls.”

The second doubles team of Gabby Bloom and Adrianna Ruzbicka won a third set super tiebreaker 5-7, 6-4, 10-5 and Claire Handa won a tough three set match 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 over Amy Delman at first singles to give Friends Academy an overall 6-1 win.

“It was really tough conditions today. I started slow. My coach told me to hit with spin and just keep the ball in play,” said Handa. “It worked. I'm so happy. Really excited! I think I'm most excited to win this title for our coach."

Great Neck North coach Mike Kazin was also proud of his team and knows they have a bright future in front of them.

“We have a very young, but talented team. I'm proud of how they all played and how hard they worked all season. It's been a great season and I look forward to having most of these girls back next year for another run."