| By Brian Coleman

Nassau County Girls Preview
Player to Watch: Courtney Kowalsky of Oyster Bay
Credit photo: Keith Kowalsky
For the past two seasons, Oyster Bay’s Courtney Kowalsky has concluded her year as New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Doubles Champion, pairing with Celeste Matute both times. The two were so successful together that the school put up a sign honoring their accomplishments outside the school’s tennis courts.

“Winning both counties and states back to back was just awesome. Celeste and I have been playing tennis together since we were six years old. Being a two-time champion with her for Oyster Bay High School was really exciting, especially since she just graduated,” said Kowalsky. “We were surprised at our athletic awards dinner when we were presented with a sign saying home of the two-time champions that is now posted on the fence. It is really cool.”

Matute has graduated and moved on to her freshman season at UNC-Wilmington, but Kowalsky is now the undisputed leader of the Oyster Bay squad.

“It’s hard to believe this is going to be my last year playing on the Oyster Bay tennis team, I have been on the team since I was in seventh grade. I think it’s really important that I support the rest of the team this year and bring our play to a higher level,” said Kowalsky. “I’m hoping to keep tennis fun, while keeping the team’s focus on winning.”

Kowalsky has played in a lot of big-time tournaments throughout the summer, including the U.S. Open National Open Playoffs Eastern Sectionals, partnering with Jericho’s Samantha Galu to reach the Women’s Doubles final. She then headed west to San Diego to compete in the USTA Girls 18s National Championship in both the Girls Singles and Girls Doubles draws.

“I think that my confidence improved greatly after performing at big tournaments like counties and states,” Kowalsky said. “I played at the hard court championships in San Diego and all the girls were incredible players. It was really an honor to be playing alongside such talent.”

The senior will use her past success, plus the confidence she has gained in her national play, to power through her Nassau competition.

Celeste Matute & Courtney Kowalsky from Oyster Bay were honored as two-time New York State Doubles Champions


Nassau County teams to watch

Manhasset won its second consecutive Nassau County Championship last year following a 26-year drought, and the Indians will be out to make it three straight county titles this fall. Despite losing first singles player Amanda Foo, Manhasset returns much of its deep lineup from a year ago, including Lia Frankis, Stephanie Petras and experienced doubles pairs. The program is 46-3 over the last three years, and will look to continue to roll into the 2016 season.

The Manhasset Indians were crowned the 2015 Nassau County Girls High School Champions


Cold Spring Harbor
Cold Spring Harbor came up just short last year, falling to the aforementioned Manhasset Indians in the Nassau County Championship, but the Seahawks will be ready to return to that point again this season. Despite not having top singles player Merri-Kelly Hannity back, Cold Spring Harbor returns singles player Maddy Richmond and has a deep pool of talent ready to make a return trip to the finals once again this fall.

2015 Nassau County runners-up Cold Spring Harbor

►​Friends Academy
After an impressive 13-3 season in 2014, the Quakers of Friends Academy had an up and down campaign in 2015, finishing with an 8-7 record after falling to eventual runners-up Cold Spring Harbor in the Nassau quarterfinals. But look for the Quakers to have a breakout season this fall, led by singles players Calista Sha and Morgan Wilkins, plus some talented doubles pairs, Friends should be one of the better teams in Nassau during the 2016 campaign.

Much like Friends Academy, 2015 was an up and down season for the Roslyn Bulldogs. After losing five of its first six matches to start the 2015 season, Roslyn finished the year winning seven of its final eight matches to reach the Nassau County playoffs. Despite losing many contributing seniors from a year ago, Roslyn should return to its competitive form in Conference I, and will look to stay in the hunt with the County’s top teams.

Syosset’s 2015 season was just as up and down as Friends Academy and Roslyn, falling to eventual Nassau Champions Manhasset in its opening match, but then rattling off five straight victories, only to lose seven of eight matches towards the end of the regular season. The Braves welcome back singles players Risha Maholtra and Hannah Abraham, and have experienced doubles pairs that will keep them in each match. If Syosset can maintain consistency throughout the year, the Braves should be a formidable team once the playoffs roll around.

Syosset will make a strong push for the 2016 Nassau Championship


Nassau County key dates (subject to change)

Wednesday, Sept. 7: 2016 Regular Season Begins

►Thursday, Oct. 13: 2016 Regular Season Ends

►Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 15-16: Nassau County Individual Tournament @ Eisenhower Park

►Monday-Friday, Oct. 17-21: Nassau County Team Tournament

►Tuesday, Oct. 25: 2016 Executive Cup

►Saturday-Monday, Oct. 29-31: 2016 NYSPHSAA Tournament @ Port Chester, N.Y.


Suffolk County High School Preview Fall 2016
Player to Watch: Kimberly Liao of Commack
Last season, Commack eighth grader Kimberly Liao dominated the Suffolk competition, going undefeated in singles play on her way to winning the Suffolk County Individual Singles Championship.

Liao defeated Stephanie Chikvashvili of Half Hollow Hills East 7-5, 6-3, coming back from 0-3 down in the opening set, to win the 2015 Suffolk County Championship. She followed up that performance by winning two matches at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) tournament on her way to a quarterfinal appearance.

“I definitely played well last year,” said Liao. “I also worked on a lot of things over the last year, as well, which I think will translate well into this season.”

Despite her success at an early age, Liao is not resting on her laurels. She continued to work on her game in the offseason, adding more elements to her repertoire to become more well-rounded.

“I played some more tournaments and spent a lot of time at Sportime working with my coaches and my dad to keep improving,” Liao said. “I worked on more transitional shots, volleys and just being more aggressive.”

Liao helped lead her Commack team to an undefeated regular season, advancing to the Suffolk County Championship before falling to Hills East. Despite losing some productive seniors from last year’s team, Liao says the team’s goal is to “definitely win it all.”

“I think we’ve always had great chemistry as a team, and now that some of the girls who are in my grade will have a chance to try out, I think it will help give us a greater bond as a team this year,” Liao added. “We lost some seniors, but the kids coming up have a lot of potential, so we are confident moving into this season.”


Suffolk County teams to watch
The Cougars of Commack put together an undefeated regular season last year before falling to Hills East in the Suffolk County Championship. Commack has a lost a couple of key contributing seniors from last year’s team, but led by ninth-grader Kimberly Liao, the 2015 Suffolk County Singles Champion, Commack should be on track for a deep run this fall.

The Commack Cougars will look to piggyback on 2015’s undefeated regular season as they prep for their upcoming campaign

Half Hollow Hills East
Half Hollow Hills East has been one of the most dominant tennis programs on Long Island for years now, and that showed again last season. After two tight regular season losses to Commack, the Thunderbirds rebounded in the Suffolk County Title match to win yet another Suffolk Championship. Hills East returns much of its rotation from last year, including Alexis Huber, Gina LaRusso and Julia Raziel, which will once again make them a contender.

2015 Suffolk County Champions, Half Hollow Hills East, look to defend their crown this fall

Ward Melville
Ward Melville had a wonderful 2015 season out of League V last year, posting a record of 14-2 but coming up short against East Hampton in the Suffolk County quarterfinals. The Patriots will look to build off of last year’s success and make a deep run at the County tournament, and will rely on top singles player Jade Eggleston, plus a deep cast of talent to do so this fall.

The Harborfields Tornadoes got off to a slow start last year, going just 4-4 through its first eight matches. Those four losses all came at the hands of Commack and Half Hollow Hills East, tough matches that paid off later in the season, as the Tornadoes won seven consecutive matches at one point before falling to Commack in the Suffolk County quarterfinals. Top singles players Kiley Roche and Remi Berlent will look to use last year’s success to make a deeper run in the county playoffs in 2016.

William Floyd
If Hills East has been the most dominant programs in Suffolk County, William Floyd is a close second. The Colonials won the County Championship two years ago and didn’t miss a beat in 2015, winning its first 18 matches. Floyd would lose to eventual champions Half Hollow Hills East in the semifinals, but will look to rebound strongly in 2016, led by sisters Brooke and Emily Fernandez.


Suffolk County key dates (subject to change)
Division Individual Championships
Friday, Oct. 7: Division I (Rounds 1 & 2) @ Half Hollow Hills West High School

►Friday, Oct. 7: Division II (Rounds 1 & 2) @ East Islip High School

►Friday, Oct. 7: Division III (Rounds 1 & 2) @ Mt. Sinai Middle School

►Saturday, Oct. 8: Division IV (Rounds 1 & 2) @ Shoreham-Wading River High School

►Saturday, Oct. 8: Division I (Quarterfinals & Semifinals) @ Half Hollow Hills West High School

►Saturday, Oct. 8: Division II (Quarterfinals & Semifinals) @ East Islip High School

►Saturday, Oct. 8: Division III (Quarterfinals & Semifinals) @ Mt. Sinai Middle School

►Monday, Oct. 10: Division IV (Quarterfinals & Semifinals) @ Shoreham-Wading River High School

►Tuesday, Oct. 11: Division I (Finals) @ Half Hollow Hills West High School

►Tuesday, Oct. 11: Division II (Finals) @ East Islip High School

►Tuesday, Oct. 11: Division III (Finals) @ Mt. Sinai Middle School

►Tuesday, Oct. 11: Division IV (Finals) @ Shoreham-Wading River High School

Section Individual Championships
Friday, Oct. 14: Round 1 Singles @ Suffolk Community College in Selden

►Saturday, Oct. 15: Rounds 1 & 2 @ Suffolk Community College in Selden

►Monday, Oct. 17: Semifinals & Finals @ Suffolk Community College in Selden

►Saturday-Monday, Oct. 29-31: 2016 NYSPHSAA Tournament @ Port Chester, N.Y.

Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com