One word said it all for the Goldstein girls tennis team. Coach Victoria D’Orazio wasn’t happy with a practice?
She felt a player wasn’t pushing herself in a match.
Her players didn’t need much of an explanation. The Judges beat them in last year’s PSAL Class A title match by a single game and just mentioning the school’s name served as a reminder of previous heartbreak and what anything short of all-out effort could mean in mid-May.
“She’s always reminding us about it, always getting us ready,” second singles Destina Grunin said. “She was killing us about the match.”
The word doesn’t hold nearly as much meaning anymore – that’s because No. 1 Goldstein vanquished last spring’s demons, rolling past the three-time defending city champion Judges, 5-0, to earn its first crown last Friday afternoon.
“It’s a great accomplishment for the school,” senior first doubles Jacqueline Varnyan said.
The victory, held indoors at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, was a changing of the guard, one dynastic program passing the torch to another. While Cardozo graduates No. 1 singles Leighann Sahagun and first doubles Minxuan and Dexuan Yuan, the Dolphins lose just Varnyan. No. 1 singles Becky Schtilkind, who topped Sahagun via retirement from injury, is the only junior starter.
“Every year we’re getting better and better players,” Grunin said. “We got real good freshmen this year and we’re probably gonna have good freshmen next year. All the tennis people come to our school. Everyone is starting to know we have a dominant tennis team.”
D’Orazio felt the biggest difference between this match and last year’s meeting was health, though she did have three high-level freshmen enter the program. Last year, Varnyan was unable to play because of injury while this time Cardozo (11-2) second singles Arielle Griffin was out.
“If Arielle was here, it would’ve been a totally different match,” D’Orazio said. “It gives us more of a competitive edge.”
Without Griffin, who topped Grunin in straight sets a year ago, Grunin had her way with Cardozo freshman Rebecca Fakas, cruising, 6-2, 6-0. Elizabeth Tsvetkov prevailed in third singles, 6-0, 6-4, and Varnyan, along with freshman Kim Salkin, persevered in a hard-fought 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 victory in first doubles.
The title was particularly sweet for Varnyan, the first high-level player to enter the program. She started out at first singles and by the end of her career was playing doubles as skilled ball strikers seemed to join the team each spring. Varnyan didn’t mind the demotion.
“It’s all worth it,” the LIU-bound senior said. “It doesn’t matter what position you play as long as you win.”
The flawless victory capped a perfect league year that included zero matches lost, a remarkable feat for the program that started at the developmental stage just eight years ago. As recently as 2006, the Dolphins (13-0) were 3-9. That was before experienced tournament-level players flooded Goldstein.
Now, not only is it the PSAL ‘A’ champion, but the Dolphins are favored to face St. Francis Prep in the next month’s Mayor’s Cup, the yearly team competition pitting the best PSAL, CHSAA and private schools in the city. The Terriers are the premier girls program in New York City, a team with 187 consecutive victories under their belt and 11 straight Mayor’s Cups.
“If we took Cardozo,” Grunin, the talented sophomore said with a smile, “we can probably take St. Francis Prep.”