After leading Hewlett as its No. 1 and 2 singles players during the regular season, juniors Gabriella Leon and Veronika Paikin teamed up to win the Nassau County girls’ tennis doubles championship Oct. 15-16 at Eisenhower Park.
Leon and Paikin, both four-year varsity players, didn’t lose a set along the way to the title and will represent the Lady Bulldogs at the New York State tournament Nov. 4-8 in Syracuse. They rolled past Port Washington’s Lauren Livingston and Emma Brezel in the finals, 6-1, 6-0.
“Once we got to the semifinals, we felt we could go all the way,” said Leon, who won 11 of 14 matches in her third year as Hewlett’s top singles player. “Each win gave us more and more confidence.”
Their victory comes five months after Hewlett’s J.J. Tauil and Dan Grinshteyn paired up to win the county boys’ doubles championship last spring.
“We’re thrilled,” Paikin said. “We had no idea we’d get as far as we did, but we played our best.”
Though they hadn’t played doubles this fall, Leon and Paikin were partners in the 2010 county tournament when they split two matches. To help them prepare this year’s event, coach Ron Remick had them face some of the Lady Bulldogs’ doubles teams as well as players on the boys’ side.
“Once the girls decided if they wanted to go into the doubles or singles bracket, they got right to work,” Remick said. “They were seeded second and had a pretty smooth ride.”
Leon and Paikin knocked off Ashley Lessen and Julia Beague of Wheatley in the first round, Manhasset’s Amanda Foo and Emily Lattner in the second round, Friends Academy’s Isabella Pascucci and Julia Carduillo in the quarterfinals, and Garden City’s Marissa Cameron and Brittany Burke in the semis.
Remick said while Leon and Paikin are similar in style, their talents are also complementary. Leon, he said, took her game up a notch this season and not only became more consistent with her powerful forehand, backhand and serve, but also improved her court coverage. Paikin, who went 8-5, sharpened her volleying skills at the net and consistently hit more winners from anywhere on the court.
“They used last year’s experience at the county tournament to their advantage,” Remick said. “The level of competition they faced all year in singles also helped.”
Leon said she and Paikin feel “no pressure” for the state tournament and want to “play as well as we did in the county tournament and have fun.”