The Scarsdale boys tennis team began this season the way it ended last season, with a loss to Horace Greeley. The Raiders, after winning their next 12 matches, are one win away from a rematch.
Scarsdale compiled a 10-1 regular season, complete with a league title, and won the first and second rounds of the Section 1 Team Tournament Saturday with ease, despite missing their top two singles players.
“We noticed playing in the first two rounds of the team tournament so far that the teams we were playing against couldn’t keep up with our pace of play, how fast we served the ball, but we’re going to come up against that in the semifinals and finals for sure,” coach Jennifer Roane said.
On Monday, No. 2 Scarsdale will face No. 3 Harrison in the semifinals, with the winner taking on the No. 4 Edgemont-No. 1 Horace Greeley winner in the finals. The Raiders already topped Harrison 5-2 in the regular season.
Last year Greeley topped Scarsdale three times, including 4-2 in the Section 1 finals. This year it was a 5-2 win to open the season, with the second scheduled meeting rained out.
“My No. 1 goal for sure is to win the team tournament,” senior Jordan Ziffer said. “Last year we had a tough loss to Greeley in the finals. There was a lot of great tennis going on. We have a lot of motivation for redemption to go back to the finals and hopefully play Greeley and maybe top them this year.”
Ziffer is a third-year varsity doubles player. He partnered with Alan Chung as a sophomore, George Brady as a junior and this year he’s at No. 1 doubles with fellow senior Gus Thompson.
“Gus is one of my really close friends and I always wanted to play doubles with him,” Ziffer said. “This was our best opportunity to claim the top spot together. It’s been a wonderful ride. We’ve played a lot of close matches and we’ve played matches where we’ve destroyed teams. We never had a match where we didn’t think we could win. Being No. 1 we had to set the tempo for the doubles teams.”
Ziffer has been most impressed with the team’s four freshmen this season, singles players Jason Shuler and Adin Lamport, and the fourth doubles team of Jason Gans and Ryan Gerson.
“It’s been very interesting to see the player development, especially of our younger players,” Ziffer said. “At the beginning of the season I thought we had a pretty strong team, especially with the seven seniors and their leadership. The really surprising part was the freshmen who played key roles in our victories.”
Most impressively, the Raiders played all but four matches without would-be top singles player Nikolay Sahakyan, who was coming into the season off surgery. He’s back and a big part of the lineup for the postseason, having made the New York State doubles finals last year with Luke Smith.
Sahakyan and Shuler were playing in the Empire Cup over the weekend, so they missed the first two rounds of the team tournament.
“I like the kids to be dedicated to the team, but the first two rounds I didn’t think we’d need them and it gave an opportunity for somebody like Adin or Andrew Broom or Jason Gans, who wanted to take a stab at singles. When we go against Harrison and if we win I’ll need my top team, my top players.”
Roane only takes freshmen on the team if she thinks they will see a lot of court time during the season. This year’s crew did just that.
“It showed how deep our team is this year and how anyone on our team can win a match for us and help us advance and show how strong Scarsdale is this year,” Ziffer said.
In addition to team sectionals, the Conference I tournament kicked off Wednesday, with the top five advancing to sectionals. The Raiders qualified third seed Jose Maronilla and Lamport in singles and the doubles duos of No. 2 Sahakyan and Shuler, No. 4 Thompson/Ziffer and Nos. 5-8 Dylan Cohen/Jake Singer, who all had a bye into the round of 16.
“The doubles draw this year I think is harder than the singles,” Roane said. “It’s not going to be an easy road. If I were making a gamble I would think all of the doubles teams would advance to the section tournament unless they play each other.”