By MIKE SMITH
Taking part in the United States Tennis Association Section Championship for the second time in Schenectady last month, the Rye Raquet Club 12U Intermediate team had a strong showing, placing second in a field that included teams from all over the tri-state area.
Last year, in the club’s first venture into section play, Rye Racquet Club finished third, but head coach Go Inagawa came into this summer believing his team would show some improvement this time around.
“Last year, it was the team’s first time at the event and we were just rookies,” he said. “But this year, we knew exactly what was at stake. The kids were definitely geared up to have a better performance this time around.”
Rye Racquet finished just four games behind the eventual champs from Maywood, N.J., but topped clubs from Highland Park, Huntington and Buffalo in their medal-winning performance.
“Playing some of the teams from around here, there wasn’t much competition,” Inagawa said. “But you get up there, and there’s some teams that have one or two ringers up there, so it’s kind of hit-or-miss.”
The team was comprised of several youngsters from throughout the area, including Larchmont’s Alison Zerbib, New Rochelle’s James Cruz, Juliette Nask from Mamaroneck, Doug Yaffa from Harrison and Justin Cheigh, Eddie Nakamura, Nicolas Jaramillo, Reece Mullahy and Finaly Ryan, all from Rye.
According to Inagawa, the unique scoring of the USTA sectionals–a competition in which victory is determined by games won, not by final set scores–fosters a camaraderie between teammates that is not often found in the normally solitary world of tennis. With boys and girls singles and doubles, as well as a mixed doubles team all competing, players are encouraged to compete for each point even in a losing effort.
“You’ve got an incentive to win big, and even if you’re losing, if you can win a game, it helps the team,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s easy to give up, but when you add that team concept it really helps the kids find that extra gear, that extra motivation.”
Although several of the players will age out of the division next year, opting to play in the older age brackets, Ingawa is confident that his returning players will once again prove worthy challengers for next year’s section title.
“We’ve got a few kids coming back,” he said. “The kids who will be 11 and 12, they’ll definitely compete next year as we look to build on this camaraderie.”