When Section 1 changed its conference alignments prior to this season, it meant tougher competition for Rockland teams, which had previously played in their own separate division.
For top programs like Suffern, the merger proved to be beneficial — exposing players to the level of competition they would see at the conference, section and state tournaments.
After back-to-back undefeated seasons against strictly Rockland opponents, the Mounties proved they could hang with the Westchester teams after the doubles team of Courtney Ollis and Sydney Kaplan upset the top-seeded Eastchester tandem of Gillian Perrotta and Sara McAtee at the Conference III championships, 6-7, 6-0, 10-6, Friday at Harrison.
“It was good to get a new group of players to play against,” said the junior Ollis, who won the conference with her older sister Rachel last year. “We’re going to have to work to prepare for sections next week because the competition is pretty good.”
Ollis and Kaplan, a freshman, were both singles players during the regular season but chose to team up for the conference tournament.
“We wanted to play doubles together; we thought it would be fun and we thought we’d do really well,” said Kaplan, younger sister of Suffern senior David of the boys team. “Sometimes we’ll play against our first-doubles team sometimes just to practice with them.”
Despite the age gap between the two of them, Ollis and Kaplan perform brilliantly together. Ollis said that Suffern acting as one team during the season — ignoring ages — is a “big factor” toward having success.
“With everyone else on the team, I think we have to be a team,” Ollis said. “There’s no room for anything else.”
Ollis added that she sees Kaplan as her peer, not as a freshman.
On the singles side, Ursuline senior Sophia Moeller beat New Rochelle sophomore Lily Grantcharova in the championship, 6-3, 3-6, 15-13, keeping the crown in possession of the Koalas. Ursuline’s Christina Sisti won the conference singles title last year, when the Koalas were in Conference II.
“Lily is one of my really good friends, so it was hard to play her; she’s like my little sister to me,” said Moeller, who offered Grantcharova a postgame hug instead of the traditional handshake. “Honestly, the match could’ve gone either way. It came down to just a couple of points.”