| By Brian Coleman
Photo credit: Brian Coleman

Commack’s Kimberly Liao showed once again on Monday afternoon why she has been such a good player all season long.

Just an eighth grader, Liao captured the 2015 Suffolk County Girl’s Individual Singles Title on a cold and windy afternoon at William Floyd High School in Mastic Beach, downing big-hitting Stephanie Chikvashvili of Half Hollow Hills East 7-5, 6-3.

Liao fell behind 3-0 early as Chikvashvili notched the early break in the second game, but Liao demonstrated her maturity and hung tough to get the break back in the fifth game.

“I just calmed down and told myself to rally with her,” said Liao, who anchored Commack to a 12-0 team record this season. “I got my serve back and everything started flowing from there.”

At 4-4, Liao would break again to jump ahead 5-4. But the experienced Chikvashvili answered right back with a break to even things at 5-5.

Liao continued to hang at the baseline to rally and wait for her chances, and once again broke Chikvashvili for the 6-5 lead. This time, she closed things out on her serve to take the opening set 7-5.

In the second, it was Liao who came out firing. She jumped on a second serve from Chikvashvili and ripped a forehand winner down the line to go up an early break. After consolidating that with a hold, the eighth-grader broke again to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the second set.

At 5-3, Liao closed out the victory on her third match point on Chikvashvili’s serve, beating the junior for the fourth time this season.

“I lost to her twice last year,” Liao recalled. “This year I really knew how to play her, but I don’t focus on the person and I just played the ball.”

Both players will be heading to Latham, N.Y. for the New York State Championships which begin Oct. 31.

Joining them upstate will be Huntington’s Emily Shutman, who defeated Jackie Bukzin of Eastport-South Manor 6-2, 6-2 in the third-place match.

The top-seeded duo of Danah Han & Mina Sarcevic of Half Hollow Hills West launched a great comeback in the doubles final on Monday, defeating Floyd’s Lisa Lin & Kaitlin Hibbert 0-6, 6-1, 6-2 to win the Suffolk County Girl’s Doubles Title.

After dropping the first six games of the match, the Hills West pair made a key adjustment that helped them find their rhythm.

“After talking to our coach, she said ‘go back to the basics, hit it crosscourt and stay consistent’ and that really helped,” said Han.

Hills West head coach Kim Langendorfer said the two had never played a team that poached and came to the net as much as Lin & Hibbert, and told her girls to stand back from the baseline to counter that.

The strategy paid off as they rattled off 12 of the match’s final 15 games to win the title.

“I was just really proud of how we played because it was a great match,” added Han. “I’m really excited to go to states.”

Both doubles teams will be heading up to Latham for the state tournament, along with the team of Olivia Faulhaber & Mikayla Goria of Smithtown East, who defeated Gina LaRusso & Alexis Huber 6-1, 6-2 in the third-place match.

The Suffolk County team playoffs continue this week, with the Round of 16 being played Tuesday afternoon.

Credit all photos to Brian Coleman

Hills West's Mina Sarcevic gets ready to hit a volley in the semifinals


Hills East's Stephanie Chikvashvili rips a backhand during the semifinals of the Suffolk County Tournament


Jackie Bukzin of Eastport-South Manor sets up for a backhand during her semifinal against Chikvashvili


Smithtown East's Mikayla Goria  prepares to hit a backhand


Floyd's Lisa Lin hits a forehand at the baseline during Floyd's semifinal victory


Emily Shutman of Huntington is headed to the States after her win over Jackie Bukzin of Eastport-South Manor


Dana Han of Half Hollow Hills West gets to her backhand during the Suffolk County finals


Commack's Kimberly Liao tees up a backhand in the Suffolk County finals


2015 Suffolk County runner-up Stephanie Chikvashvili with the latest edition of Long Island Tennis Magazine


Danah Han & Mina Sarcevic of Half Hollow Hills West with the completed draw after winning the 2015 Suffolk County Doubles Finals

Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com