Despite the 20 mph gusts of wind over the tennis courts at Terry Farrell Park, the St. Anthony’s girls were locked up for their CHSAA season opener against St. John the Baptist.
Leading the Friars was sophomore Nicolina Giannola in the first singles and senior Julia Mairorino in the second singles in their 7-0 win over the Cougars at the Huntington Station facility on Thursday.
One of the keys to Giannolas 6-1, 6-1 victory was her willingness to make adjustments to the adverse conditions.
“It was difficult, I had to hit more topspin,” said Giannola. “I had to hit shorter on one side of the track because the ball would fly, but on the other side I had to hit harder.”
Coach Carole Quinn told her players to keep moving their feet throughout the game, which resonated with Mairorino in her 6-1, 6-1 victory.
“I couldn’t just throw the ball into the court, the wind would catch it,” said Mairorino. “I decided to move my feet so much more because it was harder to get there.”
The Friars won the program’s first state championship in 2019, but this season team talent reaches a new level.
“We have always been very strong in doubles and singles have always been questionable,” said assistant coach Debbie Koenig.
“We are excited and confident about what our singles lineup will bring to the team, especially with Julia and Nic,” added assistant coach Janine DeBellis.
For most competitive teams, having two equally talented singles at the top could cause friction, but for Giannola and Mairorino they see it as a positive.
“Having Nic is such a great game, something I’ve never had in this school before,” said Mairorino. “It will definitely take my level to the next level on the field.”
Giannola decided before the season that she wanted to switch from Port Jefferson to make sure she had a tennis season.
“Tennis is a big part of my life and not having a season or one postponed until March because of the pandemic wouldn’t be the same,” said Giannola. “I am so happy to be here and play against girls with different game styles.”
The bond between the two girls goes beyond the track and provides motivation that lasts all season long.
“I love Julia, she’s such a great inspiration to me because she had an injury last year and seeing her come back and fight is great,” said Giannola. “She’s just like my big sister and such a wonderful person.”
The Friars return on Monday to play against St. Francis Prep at 4:00 PM at St. Johns University.
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