The College of Staten Island women’s tennis team is no stranger to success, and the back-to-back defending CUNYAC Champions will be looking to ride that wave further this coming week, as part of the annual CUNYAC Postseason Championship Tournament. The Dolphins are in a familiar position, entering as the field’s No. 2 team for the second-straight season in the seven-team foray that begins tomorrow at the CSI Tennis Center. The Dolphins will take on No. 7 City College of New York, who they beat 9-0 just five days ago.
The Dolphins are also streaking heading into the postseason. After a 5-0 start the Dolphins dropped three of four matches before finalizing on a season-long seven game win streak. The run featured three wins against conference opponents, helping CSI secure a 5-1 CUNYAC record. The lone blemish was a 7-2 setback to Baruch College, a match that was perhaps a lot closer than the final score would suggest. The 2014 Dolphins fell by the same score to Hunter College before scoring a 5-4 win over the Hawks in the CUNYAC Final.
“That rough patch during midseason was good for us because you can sometimes learn more from a loss,” explained CSI Head Coach Arthur Kapetanakis. “We learned a lot about ourselves, playing against adversity and playing from behind and I think that made us stronger during this most recent run. I think we’ve built a lot of confidence during these recent weeks and that momentum is good for us, because we are a different team than what we were a couple of weeks ago.”
The optimism is justified for Kapetanakis, who took over the squad this past spring and spent his first full season with the squad this fall. The team has a pair of senior leaders in Sabrina Bragerton-Nasert and Madiha Mulla, who happen to boast some of the best records on the team, occupying the top half of the order. Juniors Nozima Toshpulatova, a force at No. 1 and Michelle Kushnir, a backbone to the back of the lineup and the hero of the 2014 Final, the Dolphins not only boast the numbers, but the experience as well.
“I think for one we have great chemistry and a family atmosphere and even our newcomers have assimilated well to the culture,” he noted. “Having that support system is valuable and the experience tells us how tight it will be and there is a belief when the going gets tough we are mentality strong enough to get over any challenge we face. That’s going to be a big benefit for us this week.”
With a great lineup of individual players the Dolphins have also been sensational in doubles this season, especially at the top. Their Nos. 1-2 Doubles flights have posted a robust 28-4 record this season, and Kapetanakis feels that the way the team fares in doubles will go a long way in deciding matches.
“It starts with doubles,” the coach stated. “You always want to get the lead to build momentum and confidence. More than anything though, we know that there are going to be tight matches that we will have to grind out to win. To win will take composure when the big points are on the line. The question is who will step up and win those 50-50 matches that could go either way?”
This year’s CUNYAC Postseason is a bit different than in year’s past. For one, the entire three-round tournament will be held over the course of just five days, and will certainly have some Staten Island flavor. After the Quarterfinal round, the semifinals will be played the next day on Saturday at the CSI Tennis Center’s outdoor courts. Top-seeded Baruch, which earned a first-round bye, will play the winner of No. 4 Brooklyn and No. 5 Lehman, while the winner of CSI-CCNY will play the winner of No. 3 Hunter and No. 6 John Jay College. The Tournament will conclude on Tuesday at Queens College at 3pm. The National Tennis Center, which normally serves as the CUNYAC Championship venue, is not being used this year due to renovations being made to the facility. No matter where or when, however, Kapetanakis feels his unit will be ready.
“We always enjoyed playing at the National Tennis Center, but obviously we are comfortable no matter where we play,” Kapetanakis said. “We have been playing a lot of tennis and we are playing well and this challenge will be good for us. We’re excited to get it started on Friday, and hopefully we have a lot of tennis still left to play.”
Tickets to all rounds of the CUNYAC Tournament are FREE to all spectators, however, tickets will be needed for the semifinal and final rounds held at CSI and Queens, respectively. They can be printed here or will be available at the venue.