The future of Hewlett girls’ tennis looks bright after the Lady Bulldogs captured the Conference II-A title this season.
The team won 13 consecutive matches en route to a 14-2 record in its first season competing in II-A. The ninth-seeded Bulldogs then downed eighth-seeded North Shore 6-1 in the playoffs, before falling 5-2 in the quarterfinals to Port Washington, champions of Conference I, where the program will compete next year.
The Lady Bulldog’s winning streak included several large-margin victories, three by 7-0, four by 5-1 and five by 5-2.
“We dominated in singles, and doubles started to come together as they started to get more experience and worked a lot harder at practice and learn the proper doubles games,” coach Abby Samlin said about her young squad.
Freshman and varsity newcomer Rachel Arbitman led Hewlett as first singles and claimed the Nassau singles championship with a 16-0 record. Nationally ranked by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), Arbitman defeated New Hyde Park’s Steffi Antao 6-0, 6-2 in the singles final of the Nassau Individual tennis tournament on Oct. 15. She will vie for the state title Latham starting this Saturday.
Samlin praises Arbitman’s maturity on the court, array of shots and power game that exploits opponents’ weaknesses. Her best match came against Locust Valley’s Anastasia Koniaev, a fellow USTA player, who she defeated 6-0, 3-6, 10-5 on Sept. 8.
“Rachel helped the team get better, and they’ve taken her in and made her a total team player and have learned from her, too,” Samlin said.
Although the doubles teams were a season-long work in progress, fourth doubles sophomores Jules Polakoff and Chelsea May sealed the conference title for Hewlett in a 4-3 victory over Great Neck South, defeating Sarah Khan and Allie Liman in three sets 7-6, 5-7, 9-7 on Sept. 25.
“For young, inexperienced players to come up big is unbelievable,” Samlin said about the tandem.
With Arbitman’s arrival, junior Gabriella Sciarrotta stepped down to second singles, was named a captain and posted a 15-1 record. She dominated mainly with a powerful forehand and backhand, and shined against Kavina Amin of Wheatley on Sept. 18, winning 6-1, 6-3.
“Gabby has been a total team player, dominated through the league, and she’s only getting better,” Samlin said.
Third singles freshman Daniella Paikan performed steadily to earn a 13-3 record, and with improved physical strength and more experience, she can dominate like Sciarrotta, Samlin predicts.
The coach paired at first doubles the powerful sophomore Jenifer Perper with the experienced senior Shadi Torbati, a duo that delivered in the playoffs against North Shore, winning 6-4, 6-2.
Perper, who also has a finesse game, and Anna Bromfeld —who plays third doubles alongside fellow sophomore Lauren Ledon and developed her strengths at net and cross court volleys — improved the most this year, Samlin said.
The third-year coach needs all her players to keep improving if they want to contend next year in elite Conference I. Port Washington, she noted, is a younger team, with several seventh and eighth graders, and will be competitive for years to come. But she believes her players are up for the challenge. “I think we’ll be a force to be reckoned with in Nassau County,” she said.