In the end it was a 6-5 season for the Scarsdale boys tennis team, which was charged with rebuilding and earning varsity experience quickly after losing key players from the roster both before the pandemic and during it, too.
“The nice thing is, and I hope they realize it, they’re getting better and better and I think they’re getting more confident,” coach Jennifer Roane said. “In the beginning they weren’t doing signals and now they’re doing signals. They weren’t coming up to the net. And the communication is better. We’re not winning as much as we would like, but it’s not because we’re not coming out and trying.”
Roane points to some of the key rematches against the top two teams in the section, Horace Greeley and Mamaroneck, and how much her team improved from the first meeting to the second.
“We played Greeley the first time and lost 7-0, but we only took 12 games off them,” Roane said. “When we played them again we lost 7-0, but we got like 45 games off them. Same with Mamaroneck. We lost 7-0 and then 6-1 and the second time we went into tiebreakers and it was a much more competitive match.”
In the regular season finale against Harrison, the Raiders were able to secure the above .500 finish with a tight 4-3 victory. The three matches Harrison won all involved one of the Griff brothers at first singles, second singles and first doubles. The Raiders took the other four matches.
“They have a lot of depth which I know, from having it over the years, can really set you up in a nice spot,” Roane said of Harrison.
With 11 players returning next year, and potentially junior Jason Shuler coming back to the team, the Raiders hope to be in an even better position to compete as a more seasoned team.
Aditya Menon and Kenneth Xu paired up as juniors this season after playing on junior varsity freshman year. It was a big step up, but they believe being on varsity helped them step up their game.
“That challenge, the elevated level I had to play at, really did me wonders,” Xu said. “I think I am playing a lot better now than I did at the beginning of the season. It carried over into our matches. I played a lot better in matches against good teams like Horace Greeley.”
Losing a year impacted players differently, but Menon said he was playing most of the year. “In 10th grade we couldn’t try out, but this year everyone was significantly better than two years ago,” he said. “Everyone stepped up their game and was much more competitive. That’s just more fun. Freshman year there were people who were new to the game, but here everyone is experienced.”
The pair said they learned a lot from losing to top competition. “Losing is always a learning experience,” Xu said. “I think losing helps me to understand what I did wrong and I think winning is also a learning experience because you need to know what you did to win.”
Menon said the losses exposed the team’s weaknesses, which allowed him and Xu to focus on those for future matches.
“When we lose there’s specific reasons why we lose,” Menon said. “I’m just not patient enough, so I’ve learned to become more patient and he learned to improve on whatever he needed to improve on. That’s been useful.”
Despite the short preseason, short season and fewer practices than she’d have liked, Roane believes the Raiders made the most of the opportunity.
“We’ve had a good set of challenge matches, we’ve had some good wins, some bad losses, but I think overall I’m grateful we were able to have a season, but I’m also glad we’re moving into postseason to keep playing,” she said. “These kids are great. They’re willing to learn. I wish I had more time.”
The team also had the chance to bond, so everyone will be more familiar with each other next spring. “We’re all pretty good friends now,” Menon said. “We cheer each other on at matches.”
Roane said she entered the doubles teams of junior Jason Gans/sophomore Michael Marks, sophomore Ben Hyman/sophomore Sameer Kini and sophomores J.P. Figueiredo/Coby Gantcher and hopes all three qualify.
Gans played second singles and is pairing with Marks as his partner, freshman Hiroshi Hebner, is hurt. The other two were strong doubles pairings from the regular season.
Senior Andrew Broom and junior Adin Lamport, the first and third singles players, respectively, opted not to enter postseason.