For the first time in eight years, the Nassau County doubles champion hails from South Side, as Julia Gentile and Lauren Zola teamed up to win the title on Sunday.
“It’s really special,” said Zola. “I know [our coach] Mr. Colesanti is super excited, you can see it on his face. He tried to take the pressure off of us and told us he didn’t care if we won or lost, but he’s definitely excited.”
Zola and Gentile defeated Cold Spring Harbor’s Maddy Richmond and Nicolette Loeffler 6-2, 6-3 to claim the county title, the first for South Side since Deana Davoudiasl and Rachel Shenker won in 2010.
“We knew we were capable of it, but didn’t realize that we could beat all of these teams here, because there are so many good doubles teams,” said Gentile. “We just tried to focus and not get down on ourselves if things weren’t going right.”
That mentality proved to be crucial after the pair got off to a slow start on Sunday. They dropped the first set of their semifinal match against Alina Lyakhov and Alyssa Ghassabian before coming back to win the final two sets, and then secure the county championship in straight sets.
“I think in the first set we weren’t sticking to our plan because we were nervous, and we weren’t going for the shots we knew we could make,” added Gentile. “But after that we changed our whole mentality, and knew we had to hit the balls deep and charge the net and put points away.”
Zola and Gentile anchored the singles lineup for South Side this year, playing No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, but found time during practice sessions to work on their doubles game as they sought to improve on their quarterfinal showing last year.
“We knew we had one more shot with them together before Julia graduates this June, and they were both eager to play again,” Colesanti. “We created a game plan and stuck it all weekend. We tried to maximize their strengths by having Lauren doing most of the heavy hitting on the baseline because her groundstrokes are so solid, and we had Julia doing most of the work at the net with her great volleying skills and poaching. When opportunities arose during points, the plan was to move forward together and take over the net.
Now they are looking forward to the New York State Championships in two weeks. I couldn’t be happier for them.”
The pair will be joined at the state tournament by Richmond and Loeffler, as well as Lyakhov and Ghassabian, who defeated Port Washington’s Brittany Polevikov and Charlotte Forman 7-5, 6-0 in the third-place match.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.