The article was written by Tyler Cohen, Kimberly Liao and Brian Coleman
The Coronavirus pandemic has been a health crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen in more than a century. There’s hardly been a region in the world left unaffected with millions of confirmed cases worldwide, and the rapid spread of the virus has created ripples that have changed the way we live on a day-to-day basis. One of those ripples has been the closing of schools, and as a result, the cancellation of all athletics.
"In my 25 years of coaching, this is unfortunately going to be a first. In 2001, we had a two week delay to the start of the girls tennis season because of 9/11, and in 2012 we had just finished the team and individual season on Long Island a few days before Hurricane Sandy hit," said Massapequa head coach Mike Pavlides. "There is definitely frustration and disappointment. From my team's perspective, I have some seniors who expected that this was going to be their time to become one of the starters or to earn a singles spot. But as the virus spread and became more of an epidemic, it started to become a reality that at best we would have a condensed season to the more likely possibility of no season at all."
For seniors on Long Island, and across the country, that means they will finish their final semester as high schoolers from their own homes. And for those athletes who are missing their final seasons this spring, there can be a sense of lost opportunities. These players understand that this is an unprecedented situation we’re in, and the overall health and safety of our community’s most vulnerable citizens is paramount, but that does not make these circumstances any more palatable.
“While in context, sports are not the most important thing right now, losing the opportunity to compete and be a part of a community of friends, peers and motivated athletes for the final time in high school is nonetheless difficult,” said Commack’s Michael Parrinello. “Like the many ‘last times’ that have been lost this spring, the tennis season is definitely one of the more upsetting, but the many positive memories of competition over the past years and my time on the court will undoubtedly endure beyond this bit of negativity.”
Parrinello’s teammate, Cooper Schoenfeld, along with the rest of the team’s senior class, will look back ontheir time at Commack fondly, despite the fact that their final match came in defeat in the county championship a year ago.
“If I don’t get the chance to finish my high school career this season, I want to remember my career as one where I worked really hard to achieve my goals. I’m proud Commack has been able to establish itself as one of the best teams in the county and on Long Island through the years,” said Schoenfeld. “Playing high school tennis helped me get in shape and taught me to be disciplined and relentless when I was playing. If we can’t play this season, at least I can look back on my high school career with pride, having been part of a team that won the county championship.”
The quarantine and social distancing is a difficult thing to practice for everyone, especially those who are used to being active and playing sports outdoors on a consistent basis.
“Besides school, I’ve been trying to do my best to stay in shape,” said Syosset’s Peter Bukary. “During a time like this, if you don’t stay active or fit, you can sink into a hole of laziness. I’ve created a little home gym in my basement where I can do some different exercises throughout the day. It keeps my mind occupied and helps me maintain some semblance of a routine.”
Half Hollow Hills West’s Bilal Rasidzada said:
“During quarantine, I’ve been working out a lot at home using calisthenics and some old equipment. I’ve also been using a tennis ball and elastic rope to hit the ball and work on my strokes.”
The senior season is the final time for tennis players to make a run at the county championship, both the individual and team tournaments, as well as the NYSPHSAA tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens.
“It was definitely disappointing finding out there wouldn’t be a season because school tennis is easily one of the best times of the tennis year for me because you don’t really get any team atmosphere being in such an individual sport like tennis,” said Plainview JFK’s Jared Phillips. “I was really looking forward to playing counties and trying to qualify for states because I had never played those tournaments before so that was probably the hardest part of the season being canceled.”
Center Moriches’ Michael Koscinski added:
“I was pretty upset at first and it would have been great to see how well I could compete in my senior season, but I’m still playing and training hard for my first year of the college tennis season. I will mostly miss the chance to compete in the New York State championships at the National Tennis Center. It was a great, fun atmosphere and experience, and I will miss it a lot.”
For many seniors, the final season is a chance to lead the team they have been a part of for years. They relish the idea of being a team captain and helping to set the example for the underclassmen.
“Honestly, I’m going to miss my boys,” said Half Hollow Hills East’s Jesse Kanofsky. “I was so excited to be one of the captains this year where people would look up to me for guidance, and I was pumped to try and give these guys the best season yet. I cannot forget about my coach, Steven Farrentello. This man helped my game and took my leadership qualities to another level.”
Wade Tucker of Miller Place was also looking forward to being a team captain in 2020:
“Last season we lost six starting players so there was going to be a lot of change this year. The dynamic was totally different and I, as captain, would have loved to be the one to watch that shift to the new dynamic. I look forward to tennis season all year so to go through more than half this year to have it postponed or cancelled has definitely put a damper on my year.”
Tucker’s coach, Kevin Gomory, is going to make sure Tucker and the rest of this year’s senior class played a crucial part in the team’s success.
“If there’s no tennis season, I would like to remember my seniors from this year by encapsulating them with the 2019 seniors and the season they put together last year,” said Gomory. “It was one of my favorite and best seasons of my coaching career. Specifically with these seniors, as well as the rest of the team, I want to remember all of the laughs they have given me. It’s what makes the job worthwhile.”
That sentiment is one that many of the senior players and their coaches will try to remember most. High school tennis provides a different type of atmosphere than other tennis competitions for these players, and that camaraderie and brotherhood is something they won’t soon forget.
“My favorite memories of my high school tennis career include the fun times spent with my teammates on and off the courts,” said Skyler Spitz of Mount Sinai. “We would always joke around during practices and had end-of-the-season parties after winning the league title in 2017 and 2019.”
Bay Shore’s Stefan Pallotta said he will remember those bus rides to and from matches:
“I’m not sure what I can say about my previous years other than I should’ve appreciated being on the team more than I did. What I’m going to miss the most about tennis is the bus rides back from away matches as we would do “Hey there’s” on each other. We would just always have fun.”
"I really notice how much I took it for granted. It was the last ride, and sadly I never realized how much it meant to me until now,” said Sachem’s Phillip Filipowski. “I’m not sure if I’ll play in college yet, so it was really a huge smack in the face. I’ll remember my time on the team as one of perseverance and full of laughs...Tennis has also brought me many new friends and connections that will always remain intact. I never expected a single player sport would create so many bonds.”
Competing in high school sports is a unique and special experience for these athletes, and it is unfortunate that the final season for many has been taken away from them. Senior year brings with it a lot of momentous occasions, and while the Class of 2020 may be forced to spend that time inside their homes, we hope this senior class can look back on their time competing for their schools in a positive light.