| By Brian Coleman


Nassau County Girls Preview
Player to Watch: Amy Delman of Great Neck North
Last year, Amy Delman (pictured above) played high school tennis for the first time and compiled a fantastic season in her freshman campaign at Great Neck North High School, finishing in third place at the Nassau County Individual Championships and winning a round at the New York State Championships.

But one of her favorite parts of the year was playing tennis in a team format for the first time.

“I was never really part of a team,” said Delman. “Tennis is more of an individual sport, but the team experience was really great. All of my teammates support me, cheer for me and comfort me during ups and downs. It was a surprise. I actually asked my mom why I hadn’t played for a team before. It’s a lot of fun and I love my team. I was one of the youngest and they made me feel right at home even though some had been playing for the team for four years. It was a great experience.”

Delman was a force to be reckoned with in her freshman season. Her individual accomplishments speak for themselves, and she also helped lead her Great Neck North squad to the Nassau County Championship.

A lot of the team success stemmed from the chemistry the team had.

“I was really sad when the season was over because I really enjoyed it,” said Delman. “It wasn’t just all tennis, we had fun together as a team and it created an overall experience which was great.”

Her success on the court has done a lot for her confidence heading into her sophomore season. She competed against the top players in Nassau County as a part of Conference I, and put it all on display during the Nassau County Tournament.

“I gained a lot of confidence and saw that I can compete with these older players, these top players,” said Delman. “It made me want to come back this year and play again.”

She is motivated to build upon the success she had as a freshman and will be a factor in the Nassau County Individual Championships later this season. She hasn’t played a lot of tennis over the summer as she works her way back from some injuries, but should be ready to go when the high school season rolls around.

Her talent level is on par with anyone in Nassau County, and Delman says in order to play her best tennis, she needs to focus on having fun and not taking herself too seriously.

“I’m definitely just trying to have more fun, because last year, I started off the season very serious and sort of loosened up as it went on,” Delman said. “But I want to go into this season with my head high and just remember that while it is supposed to be competitive, it is supposed to be fun at the same time.”


Nassau County teams to watch
Great Neck North: 
The Great Neck North Blazers finished as runners-up in the Nassau County Championship a year ago, but return the bulk of its lineup from that team, making them a favorite to get back to the title match this season. Led by sophomore Amy Delman, Great Neck North also features returning singles players Alina Lyakhov and Alyssa Ghassabian, as well as doubles players Ashley Yu and Margaret Haykin, providing a formidable lineup that can compete with anyone.

North Shore: North Shore will be a contender in the Nassau County playoff picture in 2017. As many of the top programs have lost players to graduation, North Shore returns a number of players which will give them a deep lineup. Olivia Scordo and Lucia Hu, last year’s Nassau County Doubles finalists, will both be back to lead North Shore, which went undefeated in the regular season last year, as one of the best teams outside of Conference I.

Friends Academy: The Friends Academy Quakers had an historic season a year ago, capturing the Nassau County title and winning the first ever USTA Long Island Executive Cup with a win over the Suffolk County champions Commack. Friends also featured the talents of New York State Doubles Champions Calista Sha & Morgan Wilkins. The latter will not be back this season, and neither will top singles player Claire Handa, but with Sha returning and younger players gaining valuable experience last year, the Quakers should be a factor in the Nassau playoff picture once again.

Manhasset: The girls’ tennis program at Manhasset has been one of the top in Nassau County for years, and that should be no different in 2017. While it has lost a number of top players, including Kyleigh Harmon and Lia Frankis, it does return Madeline Clinton and Brianna Rienze, two junior captains from last year, who will anchor a deep roster which will make the Indians one of the teams to beat as we approach the Nassau County playoffs.

Cold Spring Harbor: The Seahawks of Cold Spring Harbor lost to eventual runners-up Great Neck North in the Nassau County playoffs last year, but should be back again contending in 2017. While it lost top singles player and Nassau County Champion Merri-Kelly Hannity as well as other key players on the roster, Maddy Richmond returns to lead the Seahawks who always seem to have a young crop of talent, keeping the Seahawks a competitive force in the county’s top conference.


Nassau County key dates (subject to change)
Thursday, Sept. 7: 2017 Regular Season Begins
Tuesday, Oct. 10: 2017 Regular Season Ends
Saturday-Sunday, October 14-15: 2017 Nassau County Individual Tournament
Monday-Friday, Oct. 16-20: 2017 Nassau County Team Tournament
Monday-Wednesday, Oct. 23-25: LI Championship Dates (Tentative)
Friday-Monday, Oct. 27-30: 2017 NYSPHSAA Championships in Albany, N.Y.


Suffolk County Girls Preview
Player to Watch: Jackie Bukzin of Eastport-South Manor
Playing in the fifth Suffolk County individual tournament of her high school career, Eastport-South Manor then junior Jackie Bukzin (pictured above) was ready to finally get over the hump and win the county title last year.

“I felt very prepared going into the tournament,” Bukzin said. “I think I was just ready to win, and to have all that hard work pay off felt great.”

Bukzin would defeat defending champion Kimberly Liao of Commack in the final, claiming the Suffolk County Championship and setting her up for a senior season, where her primary goal will be to defend her title.

“I’ve been working on adding variety to my game, trying to really incorporate my slice, which I feel is a great weapon for me,” said Bukzin. “I’ve also been working on my serve. I feel that can really translate into a weapon. I’ve been training really hard over the summer, playing in a lot of tournaments, and I feel like I am playing really well.”

Her endurance and fitness has been a major point of emphasis for her as she approaches her senior season. Bukzin knows she will be taking on top players throughout the regular season and into the county tournament, and potentially the state tournament, so being able to play three-set tennis is a priority for the senior.

“I’ve really tried to get stronger and get better in third sets, even just closing out the match a little bit better,” Bukzin said. “One thing my coach always says is when you play top players, you have to expect that the match is going to go three sets. No one is really going to fold. I think preparing for three-set matches against top players is what I have tried to stress most in the offseason. I’ve definitely learned a lot and I’m really looking forward to the season starting.”

Bukzin’s high school career has attracted the attention of many college coaches and programs, and she has committed to continue her tennis career at Amherst College.

“I made a couple of visits there and I really like the team, the girls were really nice,” Bukzin said. “I then played in the Donovan Showcase at Yale and the coach, Jackie Bagwell, really pushed for me. I feel her personality really suits me and the school is top-notch academically. I loved the atmosphere of the school. It’s a small school so you can develop really good relationships with your peers and professors, so it was the perfect school for me. I am really excited to attend next year.”

But first, Bukzin has her eyes set on defending the Suffolk County title and leading Eastport-South Manor into the Suffolk playoffs.


Suffolk County teams to watch
Commack: The reigning Suffolk County champions will be back once again to try and defend its title as Commack enters 2017 with a deep roster. Despite not having former Suffolk County Champion Kimberly Liao back, the strength of Commack in recent years has been its depth. Singles players Emily Tannenbaum and Gabriela Glickstein will look to fill the void left by Liao and lead the Cougars back to the Suffolk County title for a third consecutive year.

Half Hollow Hills East: Every year, the Thunderbirds of Half Hollow Hills East need to be considered a contender in the Suffolk County landscape. That is the case once again as it tries to return to the Suffolk Championship after missing out on the finals a year ago. Hills East returns last year’s County Doubles Champions Ariana Mailk & Lauren Cherkin, as well as Alexis Huber to give it three All-County players returning to the roster. With its deep lineup and doubles expertise, Half Hollow Hills East should contend with anyone in the county.

Ward Melville: Ward Melville may be the most intriguing team in Suffolk County. It returns a number of players from last year’s team which reached the Suffolk County Finals and should once again be in contention for the County Championship. Led by top singles player Denise Lai, who finished third in the County Individual Tournament last year, as well as Jade Eggleston and Dara Berman, the Patriots of Ward Melville could very well return for a trip to the Championship, this time, with unfinished business to take care of.

William Floyd High School: William Floyd was undefeated last year up until the playoffs when it dropped a close match to Half Hollow Hills East in the Suffolk County Semifinals. Despite losing top singles player Emily Fernandez, her younger sister, Brooke, returns to help lead the Colonials. Other top players such as Alyssa Drell, who stepped up last year and played great in the fourth singles spot, and Lisa Lin will be looked upon to once again give Floyd a deep lineup poising the Colonials for success this fall.

Islip High School: The Buccaneers of Islip High School reached the quarterfinals of the Suffolk County Tournament in 2016, and are positioned to build upon that success this fall. Returning with a majority of its lineup from a year ago, team members include top singles players Maddie Germano and Ashley Mannetta, and doubles players Nicole Arey and Grace Klomp. Last year’s team was extremely young, and with the bulk of the squad coming back for 2017, look for Islip to be a factor throughout the season and build on its quarterfinal success from last year.


Suffolk County key dates (subject to change)
Tuesday, Aug. 29: 2017 Regular Season Begins
Saturday, Oct. 7: 2017 Regular Season Ends
Friday-Monday, Oct. 27-30: 2017 NYSPHSAA Championships in Albany, N.Y.


Brian Coleman

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