The makeup of the Scarsdale girls tennis team is anything but typical. However, with a strong core of veterans and eight juniors, the team is set up to be elite this year and next at the very least.
“I’ve graduated five or six, but when you graduate eight players and you only carry 13 that’s more than half your team,” coach Jennifer Roane said. “We have a nice mix of grades and the talent is really good. The ninth-graders are starting, one in doubles, one in singles, and so far so good.”
For the second year, junior Zoe Tucker is the team’s No. 1 singles player — she played No. 2 as a freshman — and the No. 2 doubles team of junior Emily Anne Tsai and senior Maggie Inirio-Akuetey was a win away from states last fall. The new No. 1 is the veteran sister team of Luisa and Laura Mendes, a senior and sophomore, respectively.
Junior Anya Kornfeld is at No. 3 singles and junior Megan Niu is at third doubles, while freshman Natalie Hu took the No. 2 singles spot and freshman Maggie Maronilla is playing doubles with Niu.
Juniors Anna Cho and Natalie Schonfeld are teaming up in doubles, while juniors Sabrina Siegel and Devin Goldman are doing the same to round out the roster.
Tsai and Inirio-Akuetey plan to play in the postseason together again and it looks like Tucker and Hu will team up, having played USTA tournaments together before. This will give the Raiders at least two major forces in the doubles draw, three if the Mendes sisters qualify, too.
“They’re going to play again in the postseason and I spoke with Natalie and Zoe and told them they can play singles or doubles,” Roane said. “They aren’t making their decision just yet, but they have played doubles together before. As the season goes on they’ll get a taste of who is out there and what they want to do.”
While Tucker and Hu want to go far this fall, Tucker is interested to see what Tsai and Inirio-Akuetey can do after last year’s run.
“They were only a couple of points away from states, which shows so much because there’s so many rounds to be in before states, so I feel like if they are our second doubles team this year our team is getting better and stronger,” Tucker said. “It’s only been a year, but you can improve so much in tennis in a year.”
Tucker likes her chances, too. “I play with Natalie in USTA tournaments like Empire Cup, so we’re going to be playing doubles together, which is new for me,” Tucker said. “I always played singles in postseason.”
What stood out for Tucker this preseason was that everyone was involved in the singles tournament challenge matches. “Everyone was going for singles, so everyone wanted to be the best, everyone had the drive to be the best,” she said. “This year everyone really put in the effort to get better.”
The outside competition is fierce as well, but Scarsdale has been able to rebuild the program after some shaky years a few years back.
“I definitely think we can be league champs and I would love us to be in the finals of the team tournament,” Roane said. “I don’t see why we can’t be top three in either singles or doubles for sectionals depending where they play.”
Roane credited her two seniors, captains Luisa Mendes and Inirio-Akuetey, for their leadership.
“Being on the team for three years before this they’ve had different types of leaders and from Day One they’ve really set a nice tone of including the girls who just made the team and getting input from returning players, which is nice to see,” Roane said. “It’s a bonus when you have a great skill level and nice kids and kids that respect each other.”
Setting the tone of a team concept is important, especially in an individual sport where young players coming in can be nervous. Tucker recalls being nervous when she joined the team.
“I didn’t have any close friends on the tennis team and I think that knowing Natalie and her coming in and me being an upperclassman helped the team aspect,” Tucker said. “It helps us merge knowing we were already friends with the first-years. You’re usually friends with sophomores, but the freshmen come in and feel left out. Having a great relationship made the team connect more.”
Other teams were hit harder by graduation, so having the core intact gives Scarsdale an edge over the competition.
“There are other top schools whose players left,” Tucker said. “It was a really hard year last year, so hopefully we can be first in our league. Everyone is so solid, which is rare for a high school team. Sometimes there’s a lot of talent up top, but I feel like this year everyone is a tournament player and is really strong.”