Of the 77 possible points the Scarsdale girls tennis team could have amassed over its 11 matches this season, the Raiders won 76. For coach Jennifer Roane, that was an unprecedented feat for the undefeated league champs who are seeded No. 1 in the Section 1 team tournament.
The lone loss came at first singles to Horace Mann, a strong out-of-section private school team from the Bronx.
While there were some challenges along the way, including a handful of third set 10-point tiebreakers, the Raiders mostly cruised through the regular season.
“I knew the freshmen were really good, as were the juniors, but I wasn’t sure what the competition would be like,” Roane said. “Last year we lost twice to Mamaroneck, Greeley it was close. I was hoping we would do well in the season, more than .500, but I didn’t realize we would be as good as we are.”
Earlier in the season Roane noted that even when Scarsdale was compiling 117 straight wins in the 1990s through 2000, when Ursuline won 4-3 to end the streak, the team was never as dominant as it was this fall.
Mamaroneck was hit hard by graduation after beating Scarsdale twice last year and the Raiders were rained out of their match against Harrison.
“Is it that we’re very dominant or that the league is not as strong?” Roane said. “I think it’s a little bit of both. I do.”
The No. 1 Raiders host No. 16 Somers Friday, Oct. 11, at 4:15 p.m. in the team tournament. The quarterfinals are the next day at Edgemont with the winner facing the No. 8 Clarkstown South/No. 9 John Jay-East Fishkill winner at 12:30. The semifinals and finals are 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Harrison Sunday.
“I tell them always when they get on the court to play their best with no regrets,” Roane said. “I don’t want them to walk off saying, ‘I should have done this and that.’ I try not to put the pressure on them and we try to take one match at a time and after we win the girls are happy and I know I’m happy.
“The girls have worked really hard. I hope the pressure they put on themselves still allows them to perform and have fun. Sometimes pressure can be crippling and they start to get tight. They need to be loose playing. In the team tournament there will be a little bit of a pressure cooker because we’re seeded No. 1.”
Next Tuesday the Conference I tournament kicks off for singles and doubles. The Raiders will be well represented in doubles based on the team’s success this season and having all doubles teams undefeated, plus the singles players teaming up having done so well.
“I can’t take my whole team, but if I can take at least four doubles and one singles that would be a nice showing,” Roane said. “Edgemont has also done that in the past, four or five teams, but when you’ve got four in one section of the bracket they’re knocking each other out. It would be nice to be two and two and see each other at the end. I really feel that our kids in the conference could all move into the section. I’ll fight for seeding, but we have the Edgemont kids who went to states and the Harrison kids went pretty far.”
Zoe Tucker and Natalie Hu will move from singles to doubles, while third singles player Anya Kornfeld expects to stick with singles. The Mendes sisters, Laura and Luisa, the team of Maggie Maronilla and Megan Niu, and the team of Emily Anne Tsai and Maggie Inirio-Akuetey, who were a win away from states last year, could all make noise in the postseason, especially with Section 1 now allowed to send four to states this year for the first time.
In 2004, Jackie Silkowitz and Samantha Leavitt took fourth in the section and Section 1 was under the impression it could bring four teams to states for the first time. That turned out not to be true, and the girls were sent home from states devastated. It would have been Silkowitz’s fourth time competing at states and she said at the time had she known the team needed to place third as usual she and Leavitt would have stepped up their game at sectionals.
Section 1 tennis co-chair Quan Huynh confirmed there would be four berths awaiting Section 1 in both singles and doubles at states, while all other sections get one extra berth in singles or doubles.
Kornfeld played first singles on varsity B as a freshman, second singles on varsity last year and third singles this year. The growth of the program and depth of the team come as no surprise to the junior.
“Within our team everyone is playing year-round and everyone knows how competitive the team is,” Kornfeld said. “Once you get on the team you’re guaranteed a spot on the team, but you’re not guaranteed a spot playing. Last year I was second singles, this year I’m third. It encourages all of us to continue our training year-round.”
Kornfeld likes the “healthy amount of competition within the team,” noting that is what makes Scarsdale “stronger.” In other years it has led to jealousy and hurt feelings, but not this year.
“I play year-round with first and second singles and I know their playing styles,” Kornfeld said. “It’s interesting to see them play. On any given day we can all beat each other, so it makes it more interesting as a team.”
Having the opportunity to win a Section 1 team title, a tournament that has not been played on an annual basis due to scheduling and weather, is a golden opportunity for the Raiders as they gear up for the rest of postseason.
“We’re really looking forward to it because we’re seeded No. 1 and we have a really good shot at winning,” Kornfeld said. “We’re all really excited.”
Kornfeld played postseason singles last year, so she has that experience to build on this time around. As a sophomore she was knocked out by Tucker in the conference backdraw, 6-2, 6-0. Tucker went on to make the sectional quarterfinals, one win shy of having a chance to make states.
“Last year there was a lot of competition,” Kornfeld said. “There were two girls from Mamaroneck who Zoe and I both lost to. They were seniors though and they were better than me. But you always learn something when you play someone better than you. You see their strategy and you apply that to your own game. Hopefully I’ll take what I learned last year and take that to go farther.”