The usual suspects: ‘Dozo, St. Francis Prep win Mayor’s Cup

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The schools have dominated the Mayor’s Cup for so long that whenever they show up at the National Tennis Center,...

By Mitch Abramson

It doesn’t look like they have bullseyes on their back, but the Benjamin Cardozo boys’ and St. Francis Prep girls’ are moving tennis targets.

The schools have dominated the Mayor’s Cup for so long that whenever they show up at the National Tennis Center, like they did Sunday, the schools are watched suspiciously like suspects in a police line-up.

“I want to beat Cardozo so bad,” said one rival coach.

Despite the high expectations, both schools won, with Cardozo capturing its first boys’ Mayor’s Cup championship since 1999 and St. Francis Prep beating Midwood in the girls’ final for its fifth straight title and 85th consecutive team win.

For the Terriers, the winning streak is both a reason to puff out their chests and a curse. Every time they set foot on the court, the strain to keep the streak alive is palpable.

“We definitly feel the pressure,” said Prep’s coach John Brennan, in his fifth year coaching the girls. “I know that Midwood really wanted to beat us. They were sick and tired of seeing us win and get all the publicity. If a team beats us, that makes their year.”

Midwood could not win a match against Prep. If the Terriers were vulnerable, it was in singles play, where their top player, Ellenoira Featherston missed the semifinal and the final because of the prom.

Brennan, who emphasizes doubles play more then most coaches do, reasoned that if he can sweep in doubles, then only one of his three singles’ needs to win.

Martina Featherston, Ellenoira’s sister, moved up to No.1 to play Laken King. King, a powerful freshman who stood her ground on the baseline and punched back returns, forced Martina to abandon the baseline for the net in an attempt to rattle the freshman.

The strategy resulted in both players having their service game broken a total of eight times in the first set, which King won in a tie breaker 7-6 (7-3).

King was leading 3-2 in the second set when the match was called because of rain. Just as Brennan said, his doubles teams gave his singles room for error, even though they didn’t need it.

Kristina Frassanito and Marianne Romanidis won 6-2, 6-3 at first doubles and Diana Broderick and Natalie Fouche won 6-0, 6-0 at second doubles.

Kathrin Sorokko, the No.2 singles, also won 7-5, 6-2, as did Charlene Isoh 6-0, 6-0 in third singles to complete the sweep 4-0.

Strange things happen when Ari Gayer and Alex Dobrin play tennis. When the rivals met in the PSAL semifinal on May 26, Gayer of Townsend Harris popped the strings on both his rackets and had to use Dobrin’s spare.

The two have known each other since they were six, so Dobrin, Cardozo’s No. 1 singles player, thought nothing of the gesture. Only Gayer, the Hawks’ top singles player, couldn’t stop thinking about his rackets, and he forfeited the third set of the match.

Gayer would get his revenge Sunday, but it would be short lived.

The pair met again in the Mayor’s Cup semifinal, and all signs pointed toward another raucous contest.

Gayer had forfeited a match the day before while leading against Brooklyn Tech in a first round match because of nausea and diziness.

He woke up at 6:30 that morning to take three SATs and played his match immediately after without eating, drinking or warming up. His decision to forfeit was made easier because Townsend Harris had already advanced to the next round, and he didn’t want to ruin himself for the semifinal.

“I had a fever when I got home. I was really sick,” he said.

The next morning he was back on the court playing against his buddy, Dobrin for the fifth time this season. Dobrin leads the individual series 3-2 this season, but often gets butterflies when he faces Gayer because of his feelings toward his friend, which are mixed with compassion and a sense of sibling rivarly.

Instead of Gayer getting the shakes, it was Dobrin who showed anxiety in losing 10-6. The loss couldn’t keep Cardozo from reaching the finals, though.

Townsend Harris mustered only one more win — a 10-7 victory in second singles as freshman Sean Doerfler defeated Ari Fiul, and the Judges won the team competition at the USTA Tennis Center 3-2.

Dobrin should have thanked his teammates for liberating him from Gayer. Dobrin, a resident of Douglaston who is headed to Bingamton to play tennis, shook off early nerves to beat Will Fleder of Horace Mann 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, in the top singles match of the final.

The win propelled Cardozo to a 3-1 victory and gave the Judges and coach Howie Arons their 12th Mayor’s Cup Championship. The title was icing on the cake for Cardozo, which also won the PSAL City title.

The Judges return everybody except seniors Dobrin and Josh Pagan. Pagan and freshman Steve Neiman, Cardozo’s top doubles team, defeated Nick Director and Michael Yassky 6-3, 6-7, 6-3. The win took the presure off David Chen and Ben Philip in second doubles, who led 5-1 in the third set, but watched their lead slip away until the match was deadlocked at 5 games a piece.

By then, the championship had already been decided and the players were pulled from the court with the skies opening up.

“I knew we needed to get a doubles win today,” said Arons, in his 28th year as coach. “It could have been first; it could have been second. I just thought we needed to get that doubles win.”

Dobrin was in a similar state of mind following his loss to Gayer. The senior captain, a notorious slow starter, rebounded from his emotional match with Gayer to pull himself together when it mattered most.

“I was down in the beginning, but after the first set I realized that the team was counting on me,” Dobrin said. “For four years I’ve been waiting for this moment [to win the Mayor’s Cup]. This is one moment in my life that I will remember forever.”

Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by E-mail at or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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