Heading into her freshman year at Hewlett High School, Rachel Arbitman made the decision to play high school tennis.
Four years later, she concludes her high school career as the most decorated player in Nassau County history after winning her third county singles title (and fourth overall) on Saturday at Eisenhower Park.
“As I said from the beginning, since freshman year, playing high school tennis was the best decision I ever made,” said Arbitman. “I loved bonding with my team and representing my school. Tennis is such an individual sport, but for me to be able to be part of this team, and then win four county titles has been awesome.”
Arbitman added the fourth title to her collection by defeating Isabella Sha of Friends Academy 6-1, 5-7, 6-0 in a tight match that spanned nearly three hours.
“I think she played really well. She was moving me around and kept the ball deep,” Arbitman said of Sha. “I went down 2-5 in the second set and got it back to 5-5, but couldn’t close it out. She was playing really on the key points and was able to convert them to finish those games.”
Friends Academy sophomore Isabella Sha celebrates after converting on break point to force the county final into a third set.
To start the third set, Arbitman and Sha played a long deuce game that would eventually go in Arbitman’s favor, giving the senior a key break point.
“I fell behind 15-40 in the first game of the third set and I said, ‘Rachel, you have to come back’, and I knew that I could,” she said. “Winning that game really set the tone for the rest of the set.”
From there, Arbitman was able to pull away from Sha and close out the set and the match, putting the finishing touches on arguably the greatest four-year-run in Nassau County’s high school tennis history.
What she has done on the court speaks for itself, but her impact has extended well beyond her individual achievements, according to Hewlett head coach Abby Samlin.
“What Rachel has meant to the Hewlett program is just extraordinary. For one person to turn around a while program is incredible, and she has made everyone on our team feel like they belong,” said Samlin. “We’re a south shore school, so we’re always competing with the top north shore schools, and it can be tough with the long bus rides and the level of players they have up there. But Rachel has turned this team into one of the best in Nassau County, and we’re up there with those teams now…She’s my leader on the court, and when her matches are over she is the first one cheering for her teammates. She has just been a coach’s dream.”
In the third-place match, Hewlett's Nyla Gershfeld defeated Ava Scordo of North Shore 7-5, 6-3.
The four county semifinalists. From left to right: Nyla Gershfeld (Hewlett), Isabella Sha (Friends Academy), Rachel Arbitman (Hewlett), Ava Scordo (North Shore)
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.