Boys tennis looks to continue success of previous season

Aphrodite Dimopoulos, Staff Writer

“There is no way around hard work. Embrace it. You have to put in the hours because there’s always something which you can improve,” said world champion tennis player Roger Federer.

These are the words of one of the greatest tennis competitors of all time. Boasting 17 Grand Slam titles, Federer speaks words that the boys varsity tennis team at Schreiber have incorporated into their training.

Having any state-ranked players is a phenomenal accomplishment, and the Port boys varsity tennis team boasts two ranked in the top ten. The team’s first singles player, sophomore Alexander Karman, is ranked first in New York State, in addition to being ranked 65th nationally. The team’s second singles player is another sophomore, Gabrielle Brancatelli, who is fifth in New York State, placing him 90th in the nation. Having so much talent at such a young age leaves the team with high expectations and standards.

In order to keep up to these high standards, the boys face a consistent and rigorous practice schedule. The team starts off practices with a warm up, followed by a pep talk from Coach Shane Helfner, who takes the mental aspect just as serious as the physical. For this reason, incorporating these pep talks into practices is quite crucial. Following this brief discussion, more warm ups are conducted and practice matches begin. Practicing game situations is one of the many things that makes Port so diligent and leads to their success.

As found in most sports, drills take up a good portion of practice time. One drill that is often used during practices is the approach shot drills. Here, senior Francesca Karman, the team’s manager, feeds balls to the boys individually, forcing them to attack the ball.

While there is a tremendous amount of young talent on the team, there are four seniors that truly stand out among the masses. Allon Pevzner, Ben Joory, Ryan Siegel, and Zach Gruber are all in their final year at Schreiber, not only wrapping up their Schreiber academic career, but also their high school athletic careers with the tennis team.

Starting for Schreiber since the eighth grade, this season marks Gruber’s fifth year playing for the Varsity Tennis team. Gruber states that goals are a big part of the team’s success.

“As a team, our goal is to win the county championship. We have a lot of talented players, so our lineup has great depth and I truly believe that this is the year to win it,” said Gruber.

Junior Charlie Dash also had a lot to say about the team’s goals.

“We always set goals and usually focus on one match at a time, working towards a favorable seed for the postseason,” said Dash.  “Everyone also has their own personal goals on and off the court to try to improve how we play skill-wise and collaborate together as a team.”

One of the main differences with tennis compared to other school sports is the individuality of the sport.

“School tennis is a team sport,” said Gruber.  “We must work together in practice to be in the optimal position for match play. I believe that camaraderie is one of the biggest indicators for success. On or off the bench, every team member has the responsibility to support and motivate others.”

Dash, who plays third doubles, appeared to agree with Gruber’s thoughts.

“Coach Helfner always preaches the importance of a supportive team. Tennis is a very individual sport, so it’s very important that we’re able to come together and support each other in different ways on and off the courts,” said Dash.

Although Port is a power team in the state, some of their main rivals are Syosset, Roslyn, and Plainview. During their opening week of play, the boys unfortunately suffered a 1-6 loss to Plainview. Determined to not let their competition get the best of them, the boys bounced back with a win over Great Neck North. In this triumphant win, Dash and sophomore Josh Rosen won in their doubles match 6-2 and 6-1. On April 8, the boys traveled to Hewlett for an away match and left their mark with a 4-3 win.

While each sport requires maximum effort and dedication, the boys varsity tennis team constantly pushes themselves to perform to what they are capable of, that being a New York State title.

“The dynamic of the team is very good,” said junior Daniel Hart.  “We work hard and play hard while everyone gets along well.”

This dynamic combined with the incredible talent of the team is a recipe for success, making the Schreiber boys a definite force to be reckoned with.