By: Drew Hendrickson, Director of Tennis, Fitness, and Summer Programs

Tenacity’s Middle School Tennis League is gearing up for an exciting spring as teams have come out of the winter hungry for some upcoming outdoor matches and the end-of-the-year tournaments that are the climax of the season.

Gone, for now, are the frustrations of the winter. Teams are no longer playing tennis in cafeterias, dance studios or hallways. Obstacles to rigorous training now removed, teams across the city are unleashing their pent up energy and practicing with unprecedented vigor. It remains to be seen, however, how this tenacious effort will pay off when it matters most.

But the MSTL is not just about its famous tournaments. Here is an update on the most recent head-to-head matches from around the league.

The Mary E. Curley Flying Lions have climbed into first place in our standings with recent wins over the McCormack, the Umana and the Irving,

The credit for their rise goes not only to Coach Payne, who maintains a rigorous and competitive program on a daily basis, but also to 8th grade leaders Jose Cabrera and Deroledy Tejeda.

In their March 31st match against the McCormack, Tejeda teamed with Odalis Melo to take down DMC 8th graders Marvin Baez and Zhilee Cine. This was a matchup of some of the MSTL’s best players, and it did not disappoint. Tejeda and Melo emerged victorious, 8-6.

So far this spring Curley has been quite the team in form. The Flying Lions are looking to “bounce back higher” from their near misses at December’s Rising Stars and Holiday Classic tournaments.

Tangled in the 3-way tie for 2nd place are the Umana Eagles, the Irving Warriors and the JMann Tigers.

In their March 8th match, the Umana took down the Frederick Panthers** at the Cass Center. 8th graders Alan Gaviria and Yoskar Valdez led the way for the Umana, scoring a crucial tie against the Frederick’s vaunted duo of Jenny Van and Selam Bekele.

“The rallies of the match were intense,” said a visibly relieved Gaviria, “My partner and I communicated well.” Valdez added, “One of the best moments was that it was tied.”

The Frederick’s Jenny Van was less than thrilled at the result, saying, “It was somewhat underwhelming. I wasn’t really mentally prepared, but we changed our mindset and started communicating.”

Such satisfying results did not come so easily for the Umana in their March 30th matchup with the Irving. The Warriors clobbered the Eagles, 3-0.

For the Irving, Angel Vega led the way with a 4-1 win at first singles. Erick Zhanay and Joe Palomin followed suit with a 4-0 win at first doubles, and Samuel Anilus and Rafael Diaz completed the sweep with a 4-0 victory at 2nd doubles.

This drubbing is the most impressive win of the season for the Irving and will definitely build momentum as the team moves into the spring.

As for the Jackson Mann, their most recent match was a 2-0 win over the McCormack, who is quickly becoming known as a regular season push over.

Coach Zack Goodstein sent a mix of 6th, 7th and 8th graders to the Cass Center for this March 10th contest. 8th grader Khalil Carnes teamed with 7th grader Hajira Aden to earn a win at first doubles. And 6th graders Ayra Haniff and Lilu Malloy won at second doubles.

Goodstein’s Tigers have been shut out of tennis practices for much of this winter season, but the layoff has a silver lining. During this tennis hiatus, the JMann dedicated its time to Character Lab, a life skills program that Goodstein piloted during extended literacy time.

Focusing on grit, zest, and self-awareness, Goodstein hopes that these life lessons will help the JMann be mentally tough during matches.

“If kids are aware of how they are feeling, they will be able to channel those feelings in more positive ways,” said Goodstein, who was careful not to promise that these life skills lessons would translate directly into Ws.

Rounding out the MSTL field in the 5th and 6th slots are the McCormack and the Frederick respectively. Both of these teams have had some great matches but will need to step up their performance in order to have a shot at the Crane Cup this May.

*Because various teams are so close in the standings, a point system has been implemented to determine the order. The system stipulates two points for a win, one point for a tie, and zero points for a loss.

**This newsletter would like to share a correction. The Lilla G. Frederick has heretofore been referred to as the Pilots, but their actual mascot is the Panthers.