Competing in Nassau’s Conference I, and with some of its top players missing time early on, Friends Academy got off to a slow start this season.
But throughout the fall, the team continued to get better with each match it played, and on Monday afternoon at Eisenhower Park, the Quakers captured the Long Island Small School Championship by defeating Bayport Blue-Point 4-1.
“It’s very exciting,” said Friends Academy head coach Owen Kassimir. “To be able to win a Nassau County championship, and now a Long Island championship is really exciting for all the girls and this program.”
Leading the charge for Friends Academy was Isabella Sha, the Nassau County Individual Singles champion, who only re-joined her team about a week into the season. But once Sha returned, as well as key doubles contributors Taylor Overstrom and Eva Sun, Friends Academy hit its stride.
“Once she shows up, everything started to mesh together,” Kassimir said of Sha. “Taylor and Eva were out in the beginning also, so once we had our full lineup, it really began to show in our matches.”
After Skylar Cohen won 6-1, 6-1 at second singles to put Friends into the early lead on Monday, Sha notched a 6-0, 6-1 victory at first singles.
“I’m super glad to be back, not only because I won counties and as a team we won a county and Long Island title, but just to be back with my team again,” said Sha. “That was definitely the driving factor that made me decide to play again. Being able to be a part of this team and bond with the girls again is amazing.”
Because the Small School playoff format consisted of three singles and two doubles matches, as opposed to the seven-match format played during the regular season, after Cohen and Sha’s wins, Friends Academy needed just one more victory to clinch the Long Island title.
That victory would come on the second doubles court as Eva Sun & Erica Na won 6-1, 6-3 to seal the championship.
“We have a strong singles lineup, and our first two doubles teams are very good also, so this format helps us,” added Sha. “Coming into today, we talked about just trying to do our best, not thinking about what was at stake.”
To round out the scoring, Teah Login was a 7-6(4), 6-1 winner at third singles for Friends Academy. Riley Duerr & Grace Blanchard notched a 6-1, 6-2 win at first doubles for Bayport-Blue Point.
Friends Academy advances to the New York State semifinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Friday where it will play Oneida.
“I think we’ll have a good shot at states, and we’re looking forward to it,” added Kassimir. “There’s definitely good competition out there, but to be able to compete for a state title is amazing.”
For Bayport-Blue Point, while its season ends in a loss, the Phantoms went undefeated in the regular season, 14-0, and captured the first-ever Suffolk County Small School Championship.
"I’m extremely proud of the girls on my team this season, not only for winning the Suffolk County Championship but for the effort they put into practices all season, for the way they supported each other on and off the court, and the high standard of sportsmanship they upheld throughout the season," said Bayport-Blue Point head coach Keith Scharf.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.