The girls tennis state tournament kicks off today at the Tri-City Fitness Tennis Center in Latham, and six area high school players will take part in the festivities.
Two individuals, Cassie Pinataro from Chenango Forks and Johnson City’s Tiffany Hamdan, and a pair of doubles teams, Claire Loughlin and Alina Galyon of Seton Catholic Central and Vestal sisters Anika and Ishika Kumbhaker, will represent Section 4.
Since the draw was not held until after 9 p.m. last night, players had to prepare on Friday without knowing whom their opponent was. For many the routine was similar: hit some balls, go over strategy, eat dinner and relax before the draw. In Pinataro’s case, she was part of a theater production on Friday night, and will arrive at the tournament site today.
“She’ll try to warm up a bit, move around, get going and hopefully she’ll get to hit a few balls and be ready to go,” Chenango Forks coach Colleen Hanzes said. “She’s pretty good at getting herself focused and ready to go.”
Although this is Pinataro’s first time in the state tournament, Hanzes said the pressure will not affect her.
“Cassie is very confident, and she expects to be around,” Hanzes said. “I think she just expects to be around as long as she can. She would love to be there on Monday, but she’s just going to play match-to-match and go as far as she can.
“She just needs to be consistent. She needs to move the ball around, look for her opportunities to go to the net and put some balls away. I think the biggest thing for Cassie in her first time up here, and the talent is very strong. If she can just maintain her calm and play her game, things should be OK. She should do well up here.”
But while Pinataro is getting her first taste of state tennis action, the Kumbhaker sisters are in familiar territory.
“This is actually the fourth straight year that they’ve made it to the state tournament,” Vestal coach Alan Troidil said. “They’ve had quite a bit of experience through the different sectional tournaments and previous state tournaments that they’ve played together. I think that does give them a really big advantage. They’re able to communicate with each other, and that’s a big part of the game.”
One big difference for the pair is the conditions Anika and Ishika will be playing in. All season, they have played outdoors, but the state tournament will be in an indoor facility. Troidil said they have spent some time getting acclimated to the different style, but playing indoors does not change the girls’ goal.
“When we get to the state tournament, there are many, many good players, especially the downstate players coming from the New York City area and Long Island,” Troidil said. “Our expectations are to hope for a good draw and have a really strong first-round match. Hopefully we can get through that and just take it from there.”