By: Drew Hendrickson, Director of Tennis, Fitness, and Summer Programs
2017 begins with some new names atop the power rankings of the MSTL, but the field is wide open for any team to make its move.
Leading the way in 2017 has to be the Jackson Mann. Their decisive win at the Holiday Classic vaulted them from a middle-of-the-pack also-ran to the league’s top performer.
At the Classic, 8th graders Jazz Ramos and Vivi Vega won the first doubles flight in dramatic fashion. Up against two strong veterans, 8th graders Jose Cabrera and Ramon Asuncion from the Curley, Jazz and Vivi trailed 15-40 in the deciding game. They fought back to deuce, and on this mutual match point, Vivi ripped a forehand winner for the title.
“Our team succeeded not because they are the best players,” said JMann Coach Zack Goodstein, “but because of their mental makeup. They were mentally prepared for this and that’s what won it for us.”
The drama of these finals unfolded moments after this very same Curley team earned their way into the final by beating John Le and Carlos Mendoza of the Umana in a 2 out of 3 point tiebreaker. On the decisive point, Jose blistered a first serve right at Carlos, who, with a shortened backswing, blocked his return deep into the court. The solid return was not enough to phase Jose who calmly handled the shot and settled the point, and the tiebreak, in the Curley’s favor.
Second to the JMann is the Umana. Their strong showing at the Holiday combined with their impressive victory at the Rising Stars nestles them comfortably in the second position.
Umana Coach Caitlin Cataldo worked her 6th graders extremely hard in preparation for the Rising Stars, and she harvested the bounty of that toil at the Murr Center on December 9th. Umana 6th graders Luis Ortiz and Diego Acuna won the top flight doubles draw, and Elijah Canales and Perla Ortiz scored the crucial points in flight 2 to earn the narrow victory.
“I had the Rising Stars team work out separately,” said Coach Cataldo, “because we wanted to win. That’s ok, right?”
Indeed, it is. And win they did…at the Stars, but they left a little on the table at the Holiday. Look out for a hungry Umana Eagles team to come out aggressively once league play begins again in late January.
Third in our poll is the McCormack. After an uninspiring fall campaign, the McCormack made some noise in the end of the season tournaments. At the Holiday, 8th graders Patrick Dasilva and Collin McGrath won the Flight 2 doubles draw and Endy Ventura and Ricky Gaylor made the finals in Flight 3.
Because of these solid results, hope springs eternal for the Panthers. Their inconsistent regular season play, however, weighed heavily with pollsters.
“The regular season doesn’t matter,” griped Coach Ruggles. “All we care about are the tournaments.”
Perhaps a middling pre-season polling position will encourage Coach Ruggles to reconsider the importance of the League’s bi-weekly regular season matches.
The Mary E. Curley takes the fourth spot. Their near miss at an unprecedented Rising Stars 3-Peat and their strong showing at the Holiday grants them solid standing in the 4 slot.
More of a bridesmaid than a bride in Fall 2016, the Curley Flying Lions narrowly missed crucial opportunities to turn strong showings into championship hardware. But this spring, 8th grade showman Jose Cabrera, 5-time Reif Award winner Ramon Asuncion, battle-tested Amari Brown-Sweeting, recent New Balance Fitness Award winner Nayshon Niles, 6th grader Philip Pepin and their scrappy group of teammates will be ready to defend their undefeated record at the Lion’s Den and make a run at the Staniar and Crane Cups.
Fifth in this pre-season poll is the Frederick. Winners of the Fall 2016 regular season pennant, the Frederick has the talent to make noise not only during the season, but also in the tournaments.
“I was frustrated with our team [at the Holiday] because they got kind of psyched out,” said Frederick Coach Brianna Burke, “They have the skills to play better. They just didn’t. We have to work on that.”
Ever candid in her comments, Coach Burke will be looking to turn regular season success into post-season results in 2017.
She certainly has the roster to do just that. With Jennie Van and Selam Bekele anchoring the team, and talented 6th graders like Rakeem Austin and Patrick Freire providing exuberant energy, the Pilots could turn a corner this spring.
Rounding out our poll are the Washington Irving Warriors. The Warriors have some talented and tough players on their team. Look no further than 7th grader Angel Vega, who is the only player to win a set in the dreaded Lion’s Den at the Curley.
Lacking 8th grade leadership makes life tough, but Coach Tristan Norbert is determined to rise above the obstacles and continue building a proud tradition at the Irving. With Vega, 7th grade studs Shakeem Richards, Sam Anilius, and Rafael Diaz, the Warriors are laying a solid foundation that could lead to a breakout performance this spring.
Here is a run-down of the Spring 2017 pre-season rankings:
- Jackson Mann Tigers
- Mario Umana Eagles
- John W. McCormack Panthers
- Mary E. Curley Flying Lions
- Lila G. Frederick Pilots
- Washington Irving Warriors
Team Winner: Jackson Mann
Flight 1 Winners: V. Vega/J. Ramos (JMann) Finalists J. Cabrera/R. Asuncion (Curley)
Flight 2 Winners: P. Dasilva/D. Mcgrath (DMC) Finalists: K. Carnes/G. Fontes (JMann)
Flight 3 Winners: H. Aden/L. Malloy(JMann) Finalists: E. Ventura/R. Gaylor (DMC)
Team Winner: Umana
Flight 1 Winners: L. Ortiz/D. Acuna (Umana) Finalists: J. Serrano/E. George (DMC)
Flight 2 Winners: A. Haniff/D. Ogbesoyn (JMann) Finalists: P.Ortiz/E.Canales (Umana)