Champions again, Spartans enter Section 9 girls tennis tourney

When a team has established for so long, and so often upheld, a standard of excellence, there are obvious pressures.

Observers expect the Spackenkill High School girls tennis team to excel. Opponents, too.

Internal pressure, as well. With this program having won 14 of the last 15 Mid-Hudson Athletic League titles, the players almost fear faltering or falling beneath the bar it has raised.

And nobody wants to get razzed by Kourtney Kowalski.

The senior is among the Spartans’ leaders, but she also is the wise-cracking jokester who seldom shies away from ribbing teammates.

“I try to be nice about it,” she said, chuckling. “Most of the time when teammates are down, it’s because they’re not playing well, and I try to lighten the mood.”

Levity is needed in tense moments, teammates said. But it’s not often the Spartans struggle. This season, Spackenkill went 10-0 and added another MHAL title to its list of accomplishments.

“It’s an excellent achievement,” Spackenkill coach Jackie Klein said. “I’ve always instilled discipline and they’re used to that. A lot of them take (tennis) lessons so they come in knowing what to expect, and they know the history of the program and want to build on it. That’s what keeps it going.”

And Tuesday, many of the Spartans will take part in the Section 9 tournament, which runs through Wednesday at Match Point Tennis in Goshen. Seven Spackenkill players will compete, including Rachel Li at singles, and doubles pairs Leona Lau and Emily Ma, Kowalski and Madison Myers, and Cynthia Ma and Sarah McCall.

McCall and Cynthia Ma, who each lost only once in singles, have formed a formidable doubles tandem for the postseason. McCall said there are occasionally awkward moments on the court, learning tendencies, but the adjustment has mostly been smooth.

“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses from having practiced against each other so much,” said McCall, a senior. “She’s consistent and able to reach a lot of balls. I’m more aggressive and take harder shots, and I know Cynthia can cover for me. It’s a good combination.”

They will face the Marlboro duo of Michaela Kulpinski and Julie Truncali in the first round.

“We’re pretty confident and we won’t overthink it,” said Kowalski, who along with Myers will face New Paltz’s Halley Mastro and Alexandra Nicholas. “It’s gonna be fun.”

Stephen Haynes:, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4

Section 9 girls tennis championships

When: Tuesday and Wednesday, starting at 10 a.m.

Where: Match Point Tennis, Goshen

Locals competing: Singles: Brittany DeSantis (Marlboro); Rachel Li (Spackenkill); Emma DiLascio (Highland); Natalie Meyer (New Paltz); Doubles: Emma Messenger and Grace Messenger (Marlboro); Julia Bemis and Dasha Latvis (Red Hook); Katrina Ackerman and Ashley Dolan (Roosevelt); Kourtney Kowalski and Madison Myers (Spackenkill); Halley Mastro and Alexandra Nicholas (New Paltz); Sarah McCall and Cynthia Ma (Spackenkill);  Michaela Kulpinski and Julie Truncali (Marlboro); Leona Lau and Emily Ma (Spackenkill)