Dutch are tennis champions again
The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael
Eye contact: Conner O’Brien hits a shot near the net for Guilderland on Monday at Central Park in Schenectady during the Section 2 second-round doubles’ match with teammate Salil Chaudhry. O’Brien and Chaudhry upset the sixth-seeded doubles’ team from Scotia, 10 to 6. Last week, Guilderland won its second consecutive Class AA title.
GUILDERLAND — Repeating as Class AA champions in 2014 and riding a 28-meet win streak dating back to the beginning of the 2013 season, the Guilderland tennis team has had to toe the line between being confident and being cocky, Head Coach Curtis Snyder said this week.
“Everyone wants to beat you,” Snyder said at Monday’s Section 2 tennis tournament at Central Park in Schenectady; multiple Dutch players were in action. “They always play at a high level. They’ve played a lot of tennis.”
Last Thursday’s Class AA title victory over Niskayuna, 5 matches to 3, marked Guilderland’s fourth championship under Snyder following titles in 2005, 2011, and 2013. Also, it was the 10th time the Dutchmen had made the finals in the last 11 years.
“We’re all focused and maybe a little cocky,” said Guilderland’s top player, sophomore Alex Fedorov, on Monday. He was the third-seeded player in a field of 64 Section 2 players, fresh off of a 10-to-1 win over James Ferenczy of Coxsackie-Athens. “We kept ourselves centered [this year], but maybe our heads got a little big,” he said. “We took it one match, one point at a time, and tried not to think too big.”
Derek Morrison, who is a tennis trainer at Schenectady’s Sportstime where some Guilderland players train, said that Fedorov is one of the cockiest players of all. Morrison and Fedorov both burst into laughter.
“I just do stuff…I have no idea…I’m not that powerful,” Fedorov said. “But, really, we’re a very proud team. If you look at how we play, you can see how we win all these matches.”
On top of being proud, Snyder told The Enterprise that Guilderland was relieved to win another title because that was the team’s goal all along. The Dutch probably wouldn’t have settled for anything less.
“Our previous success is a motivator,” said sophomore Michael Zhu on Monday; he and teammate Bill Dong were the number-one seeded players in the Section 2 doubles’ tournament. “I think people would like to feel the same pride we do, and it’s been kind of nostalgic, especially for the seniors. It’s sentimental.”
“We’re so happy to be able to do this as a team,” added Dong, also a sophomore. “It’s harder to watch a teammate play than to play a match yourself. You have no control, you just watch.”
Guilderland has a diverse tennis team; just look at some of the names: Fedorov, Zhu, Dong, Salil Chaudhry, Conner O’Brien, Max Chao, Reza Sayeed, and Faiz Mandozai. They have various playing styles, too.
“We had a photo frenzy after we won, took as many as we could,” Fedorov said of how the Dutch celebrated its title. “We sorted them by age, tennis record, nationality, whatever.”
Snyder said that it was a phenomenal accomplishment for Guilderland to repeat. Many of the Dutch players were on the team in 2013, and their roles have only gotten more important.
“They were pumped up for this season,” said Snyder. “It’s different than winning your first title. It was on their minds to be on the top of their game.”
Dong said that Coach Snyder prepares the Dutch players well by focusing on the mental part of the tennis game. The correct mentality can go a long way in the sport.
“He expects us to learn the technical stuff by ourselves, so the mental side is what he really teaches,” Zhu added of Snyder. “Just take one point at a time, think about winning, and beat your opponent in the moment.”
“Don’t get down,” added Dong. “Don’t get mad.”
However, Guilderland has done its share of angering opponents over the last two seasons. In a handful of meets in 2014, the opposing team didn’t win a single match, and most of the matches never saw a third set.
The Enterprise asked Fedorov to describe Dutch tennis in one word. He said, “Clutch.”
Snyder went with a different word, but maybe along some of the same lines. He said, “Experienced.”
What about intimidating?
Since Guilderland has won hundreds of tennis matches over the years, Snyder says that it excites kids in the community. They want to play tennis, he says, and develop into great players.
Snyder said that he recently asked his players, before Monday’s Section 2 tournament, if their opponents would get nervous if they saw a Guilderland player in the draw.
“They thought so, yes,” said Snyder. “If you see the name, you know you’ll be getting quality tennis.”