The best high school tennis players from New York gathered at Sportime Schenectady last weekend to compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Individual Championships.
There were 11 different Sections of the state represented, but it was the two from Long Island, Nassau County (Section VIII) and Suffolk County (Suffolk XI), that reigned supreme.
In singles, Commack sophomore Kady Tannenbaum powered her way to the state title, winning five consecutive matches to become the fourth Long Islander in the last seven tournaments to win the state singles title.
“It was a fun weekend and I’m really honored to win,” said Tannenbaum. “I just had to stay focused throughout. Most of the players I played were seeded higher than me, but I knew if I remained focused I could still do well. I was just trying to be aggressive and it worked out really well for me.”
Tannenbaum’s run began with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Julia Laspro in the opening round, before she came back to win 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 against Bronxville’s Victoria McEnroe.
In the quarterfinals, Tannenbaum would meet her opponent from the Suffolk County Singles Final, Victoria Matos of Longwood. While she lost the county final, Tannenbaum exacted her revenge with a 6-2, 7-5 victory to book her spot in the state semifinals.
“I knew the match would be tough because Victoria is a really good player, but I think losing the week before took some pressure off of me,” said Tannenbaum. “I saw how I played the week before and I made the right adjustments.”
She would meet another Long Islander in the semifinals: Nassau County singles champion Isabella Sha of Friends Academy.
Tannenbaum played lights out tennis to win 6-0, 6-2 and secure her spot in the finals. Her high level of play continued in the championship match as she defeated Larisa Kotok of Marion/Gananda 6-4, 6-0 to claim the state title.
“I am incredibly proud of Kady. She has been an integral part of our Varsity team since seventh grade, and our whole team is celebrating her success,” said Commack head coach Jackie Clark. “Kady has a fantastic game that includes a terrific serve, penetrating backhand and a blistering forehand. Staying low and using her weapons were key, but she did not get rattled, and remained positive even if she lost a point. She would just take a breath and move on to the next one. Her mental toughness was what took her over the finish line.”
Bringing home a state title to Nassau County was Dasha Perfiliev & Ellie Ross of Port Washington. The county doubles champions made good on their top-seed billing, the fifth Long Island duo in the last seven tournaments to win the state doubles title.
“It means the world to us,” said Perfiliev. “Obviously we hoped we would win, but now that we actually did, it seems surreal. We knew it would be tough but we had faith in ourselves, and I’m so proud of the both of us.”
“I am so glad we were able to represent Port Washington at States and win the whole thing. Even though we had won counties, we knew there were great teams throughout the state and it would be tough. Winning was definitely an ambition of ours, and to be New York State champions means everything.”
The duo received walkover into the second round, and then lost just four total games in their Round of 16, Quarterfinal and Semifinal victories combined, securing their spot in the state final against Orchard Park’s Kelly Barnes & Maya Clinard.
In the finals, however, something happened to the Port Washington pairing that hadn’t throughout the county or state tournaments up to that point: they lost a set. Barnes & Clinard took the opening set 6-3, forcing Perfiliev & Ross to play from behind for the first time.
“Dropping the first set was kind of nerve-racking because we had never been down before in a match,” said Perfiliev. “We reminded ourselves of what we were playing for and I think that really helped us to make an adjustment in the second and third sets.”
One of those adjustments was a change up in their positioning on the court, something they had practiced before.
“Dasha and Ellie had practiced using Australian formation doubles as a way to change things up,” said Port Washington head coach Shane Helfner. “Once we started using this, and making our opponents have to change their return of serve, and this definitely helped change momentum and turn the match around in our favor.”
The close relationship between both players helped them execute these adjustments, and the end result was a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 comeback victory.
“By communicating, using new strategies and staying positive, we were able to turn it around,” said Ross. “We knew that after the first set, the pressure was on our opponents and we had to just play our game.”
The wins by Tannenbaum and Perfiliev & Ross completed the sweep of titles for Long Island at the New York State Championships. Below are the players from Long Island that placed at states as well as the Sportsmanship Award winners:
NYS Champion - Kady Tannenbaum - Commack
4th place – Isabella Sha – Friends Academy
7th place - Victoria Matos - Longwood
NYS Champions: Darian Perfiliev & Ellie Ross – Port Washington
6th place – Anika Tolat & Ava Veneziano – Roslyn
Section VIII (Nassau): Isabella Sha (Friends Academy)
Section XI (Suffolk): Victoria Matos (Longwood)