The run for a conference championship was halted for the College of Staten Island women’s tennis team prematurely last season in the semifinal round, ending the team’s two year reign at the top of the CUNYAC. So the 2016 installment of the squad will look to recapture that championship form, complete with a relatively young crop of talent that expects to progress as the season moves.
Under the guidance of second year Head Coach Arthur Kapetanakis the script is a familiar one for the squad. What the squad lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality, and the skipper is hoping that his unit has the consistency needed throughout the lineup to compete out of the gate.
“I think this season is about everyone stepping up and to go out and take on the challenges that we will face all year long,” said Kapetanakis. “I think we have leaders who can provide a stabilizing force and a set of newcomers who have a great deal of tennis smarts and can hit the ground running. That makes things exciting heading in.”
CSI suffered its share of hits. Gone are CUNYAC Player of the Year Sabrina Bragerton-Nasert (who returns as an assistant coach), all-star Madiha Mulla, and dynamic freshman Samantha Maizer defected via transfer. The losses could stall progress, but the Dolphins do return ace singles and doubles player Nozima Toshpulatova, as well as 2015 Sportsmanship Player of the Year Michelle Kushnir, and developing stars Aziza Jurabaeva, Viktoriya Volkova, Guetanie Romaine. That nucleus is a big plus for Kapetanakis coming in.
“We came up a little short last year, but this team knows how to win and they are up for the challenge that the season will present,” the coach said. “It’s really nice to have that experience level and pedigree working for you. I think they all know what it takes to play at a high level and I think all of them have their best tennis still ahead of them. That will translate and carry well with the new talent we have.”
Like every season, however, the returning talent will bring the Dolphins only so far. In the case of the 2016 Dolphins, the new talent will have to go a long way in making the team a winner. A trio of new players decorate the roster this year, and Kapetanakis is hoping they make a mark. Look for Tottenville High School product Tristiana Adragna and Susan Wagner High School freshman Dana Friedman to mark their marks in the starting lineup coming out of the gate, with S.I. Tech’s Hannah Bruschi right there with them as a player with winning experience in her cache.
“They’ve all competed at premier programs and have been around high levels of tennis,” Kapetanakis noted. “Of course, there will always be an adjustment period, but once they get in the swing of the college game and develop their brands of tennis they will be heavy factors to our season. Their styles of play coupled with our returners provide an interesting mix of how we will play on the court. Especially with our doubles game and working on combinations, we can find different ways to win points and matches.”
CSI wants to do its share of winning. The Dolphins won CUNYAC Championships in 2014 & 2015, but CSI was upended a year ago despite returning nearly all of its roster, a testament to the improvement all around in the conference. Kapetanakis knows this well. He expects the competition to be heated this season, and the goal will be for CSI to keep pace with their rivals, enough to make an impact by season’s end.
“I always believe it starts with doubles,” said the coach, “and we are working tactically every day to get our combinations right and develop that cohesion and chemistry. We want our season to be like our matches. We want to start strong, but we also know that it’s not always about how you start but how you finish. We want to be stronger as matches go on, the same way we want to be at our best by the end of the season. I think we have the type of team that can make that possible. Seeing that development will be very exciting and hopefully by the end of the season, very rewarding.”
CSI will open up its season with a first-ever matchup against UMass-Boston this weekend, hosting them on Saturday at 1pm. They follow the next day with a matchup against Yeshiva University, Sunday, at 11am. The CUNYAC opener follows on September 9 at John Jay College, and CSI will play three out of their next four from there on home territory. October features seven out of their final 9 dates on the road, before the CUNYAC Championship begins on October 23, finishing at the newly refurbished National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
“It’s a long off-season but it comes back around pretty quick,” Kapetanakis noted. “We’ve had less than two full weeks of preseason and here we are ready to roll. Everyone has been working so hard, so it’s good to have the game back and to get started. The tennis season flies by, so we know that we have to take advantage of every day and to enjoy the season.”
All CSI home games are free and PG CLUE Certified for all CSI students. Downloadable schedule wallpapers are available here, and fans can keep pace with the schedule on the official interactive Women’s Tennis Schedule Page.