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A Gold Miscalculation

Playing in the gold medal girls' scholastic tennis match against Long Island's Leah Kepping Saturday at Binghamton University, the pair experienced a Venus Williams-Karolina Sprem Wimbledon tie-breaker moment.With the score in the tie breaker tied at 9 at one set apiece, Sorokko, a junior from Douglaston, mistakenly announced the score as 10-8 before she served, prompting the coach from Long Island to jump in and declare that the match was over, according to Gus Alcayaga, New York City's boys' coach. When Sorokko asked Kepping if she knew the score, Kepping said she could not remember. They shook hands at the net, but Sorokko, who had battled back from a 9-3 deficit to even the score, knew she had won six points in a row, and had been uncertain at the time whether it was time to switch sides or not."It was heartbreaking," said Alcayaga, the USTA's director of advanced training in the junior division. "Her opponent knew the score was incorrect. That cost Kathrin the gold medal."Alcayaga and his wife, Lydia Luciano, the girls' coach, sought out Janet Carey, the tennis chairperson at the Empire State Games to explain the situation, but Carey said that since the players had already shaken hands, the match was final and Kepping was kept the winner while Sorokko, in No. 2 singles, took the silver. Calls to Carey were not returned.Sorokko was later given the sportsmanship award by the coaches for her cheerful demeanor throughout the tournament. Considering what she went through just to get there, Sorokko should have been given a pillow and a good night's sleep.The week of the Empire State Games, Sorokko played in the Midwest Open in Indiana, a national tennis tournament where she was competing against some of the best under-18 players in the country. Thinking that she would lose early and have plenty of time to make it to Binghamton, Sorokko surprised herself by winning three matches to reach the Round of 16. Instead of testing her winning streak, she left for the Empire's, where she won a gold medal in third singles last year."I didn't want to miss this," she said. "This is my fourth year here, and I have fun every year. I didn't want to let my teammates down."To reach them, Sorokko made a voyage that Christopher Columbus would be fearful of. She caught an 11 p.m. flight out of Indiana after her earlier flight was cancelled because of a thunderstorm. She landed in New York Wednesday morning at 2 a.m. and was back in Douglaston by 3 a.m. packing her bags for Binghamton. Now it was time to sleep, but before Sorokko could get comfortable, she had to rise an hour later to catch a bus to the National Tennis Center in Flushing. From there, she went to Brooklyn to meet the team; four hours later she was at Binghamton University trying to stay upright during the opening ceremonies."I brought my pillow to sleep on the bus," she said.She was on the court last Thursday morning, playing her opening match against Western's Olgo Khmylev, who greeter her by winning 6-4, 6-4. Sorokko rebounded to win her second match Thursday 6-1, 7-5. Then she won twice on Friday to reach Saturday's controversial gold medal match, which she lost 2-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-8).As a consolation, Sorokko found out later she had won the USTA's National Arthur Ashe Essay Writing Contest, beating out applicants from all over the state. Some day she may write about her experience at the 2004 Empire State Games.In other action, St. Francis Prep freshman, Shinann Featherston, 14, ranked ninth in the under-16's in the East, won a bronze medal in first singles. Featherston is looking forward to scuffling with her sister, Martina, who played third singles for New York City and whose parents are both firefighters, and with Sorokko over who will reap the number one singles spot at St. Francis Prep this year.Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

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