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Prep streaks to the century mark and beyond

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On Sunday, it took St. Francis Prep longer to eat lunch than it did to defeat Midwood 5-0 in the finals of the Mayor's Cup team competition at the National Tennis Center.With the win, St. Francis Prep pushed its consecutive match streak without a loss to 101 in a performance that was dominant and quick and almost effortless. They also took their sixth straight Mayor's Cup.St. Francis Prep dismantles its opponents in a cool, uninterested manner. The Terriers barely broke a sweat last year when they swept Midwood in the Mayor's Cup final. The players serve, hit winners and change sides so quickly that they rarely look up to appreciate their work. After a match is won, players don't celebrate or pump their fist or even mention their remarkable streak."We were a little nervous before the finals, but we've been practicing so hard that we were ready," said Martina Featherston, the No. 3 singles player. "We don't really talk about the streak."The last time anyone from St. Francis Prep's tennis team walked off the court in defeat was seven years ago when Cardozo captured the Mayor's Cup, but that was a year before John Brennan took over the women's team and created a juggernaut."I'm thankful that I have serious tennis players," Brennan said. "I know I'm a good coach, but you need kids who want to play at a high level and are willing to put in the time and effort to practice and work hard. Frankly, I don't see this streak ending anytime soon. We're going to be tough to beat next year."The Terriers are a young and talented group and have only one senior on its roster. All seven of the starters play in USTA sanctioned tournaments outside of school, and a number of the players are highly ranked in their age groups. The team practices at the North Shore Tennis Club in Bayside where Brennan works as a pro in the summer. Court space is never a problem.The Terriers defeated Stuyvesant 5-0 in the quarterfinals Saturday and Horace Mann 5-0 in the semifinals Sunday morning. Benjamin Cardozo, which defeated Midwood in the PSAL city championships on May 12, lost to the Hornets in the semifinals of the Mayor's Cup 4-1."They have the mentality like they have already won when they walk on the court," said Laken King, the top singles player at Midwood. "Not to take anything away from them because they're a good team, but they come on the court like they've already won. You can tell it in their faces."The Terriers were led by freshman Shinann Featherston who defeated King 6-1, 6-0 in No. 1 singles. Quietly efficient and sturdy as a buoy, Featherston is the top ranked Under-16 player in the Eastern Tennis Association (ETA), which encompasses Northern New Jersey, New York State and Southern Connecticut.She wasted little time imposing her will on King, a sophomore ranked No. 17 in the under-18 ETA, as she punched back winners from the baseline and mixed in maddening drop-shots. "I think we're finally beginning to get noticed," Featherston said of her team's accomplishments. "We all just found out today that we had won our 100th match in a row (during the semifinals). People are starting to realize that our tennis team is the best in the school. They made an announcement over the loud speaker at school after we won the state championships. People are beginning to know us a little more."The normally reserved Kathrin Sorokko was penalized a point in the second set of her match with Laken's twin sister, Carlissa for slamming her racket on the ground after an unforced error. Sorokko prevailed 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in a second singles match that was marked with some good-natured ribbing from Brennan."She came over saying after she lost the second set, 'I wish this was the deciding match,'" Brennan said. "I said, 'yah? Well, this is the deciding match. Both of our doubles teams lost in three sets.' Then she ran over to the doubles teams to find out if they had won."The tandem of sophomore Natalie Fouche and freshman Karen Roa defeated Midwood's Julia Katsnelson and Robyn Lett 6-1, 6-2 in first doubles. St. Francis Prep's freshmen Katarina Kovacevic and Diana Broderick won in second doubles 6-1, 6-3 over Midwood's Ivana Pavlica and Samantha Lau.In third singles, Shinann's older sister, Martina, a junior, won 6-3, 6-4 over Liz Feldman. Former Prep No. 1 singles player Ellenoira Featherston, another sister, has reoccupied that spot at Fordham University where she is the top singles player as a freshman. "I settled down and relaxed and began to play better in the third set," said Sorokko who works as a ball girl at the US Open and will do so again August 29. "I was getting angry at myself for making mistakes."Brennan had another reason to celebrate besides winning the Mayor's Cup Sunday, which was also National Cancer Survivor's Day.Brennan was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 1980 while he was working in Los Angeles as a tennis pro. Doctors from UCLA Medal Cancer said his disease was inoperable, but Brennan returned to New York, where he grew up in Jamaica and attended St. John's University, and underwent successful treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan.Fifteen years later, the radiation he received from the cancer treatment corroded his jaw bone. Doctors had to replace his chin with the fibula bone in his leg. Never one to bemoan life's puzzling twists and turns, Brennan is currently the No. 3 ranked tennis player in the state in the 50-and-over age division of the ETA.Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by E-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

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