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’Dozo coach makes racket over Berner

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Talk about two ends of the spectrum.

As Beacon celebrated its second consecutive PSAL Class A boys’ tennis city championship by spraying one another with sparkling cider, losing Cardozo Coach Howie Arons grimaced and responded to a reporter’s question with a tirade.

When asked about Hannah Berner, the Beacon Blue Devils’ third singles player, a girl who plays on the boys’ team because the school has just one co−ed tennis team, he let loose. The Judges had lost 3−2 at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center Friday afternoon, their season ending to the same opponent that crushed their hopes at this time last spring.

And Berner, the Wisconsin−bound nationally ranked senior, was a major reason why. She beat Roland John 6−4, 6−0, one result that could’ve changed the city championship match.

“Hannah’s great, but she’s a girl playing on a boys’ team,” fumed Arons, who has led Cardozo to 18 city championships, but just one in the last four years. “I can’t help myself. She’s a top gun, a national player. This is the boys’ championsh­ip.”

Later, he added: “Give me the best two girls at Cardozo and I’m winning the match — game over.”

The Judges’ girls’ tennis team did win its second consecutive PSAL Class A crown Friday afternoon and their fourth title in five years. They have several high−level tournament players, including No. 1 singles Leighann Sahagun, ranked No. 2 in the 16−and−under section of the United States Tennis Association’s Eastern standings. Of course, the well−rounded Berner beat the sophomore last year in straight sets.

“It wouldn’t make any difference. We won and he’s making excuses,” said Beacon senior Jonathan Franzel, who plays second singles. “It’s unfortunate our school doesn’t have the money for a girls’ team. It would be even more unfortunate for her to be excluded because she’s a great player.”

Beacon Coach Bayard Faithfull chose to ignore Arons’ rant, even if Berner’s presence does serve as an advantage. She isn’t the only female on the team: junior Sophie Zaken and freshman Rachel Colton are substitutes. He said the school has asked the PSAL for a girls’ tennis team on several occasions, but have been told it isn’t in the budget.

“Tennis is a game you play with balls and a racket,” Faithfull said. “It’s not a battle of the sexes. … Howie Arons can whine all day.”

One PSAL official said depending on the budget, Beacon would have a girls’ program next year. “They would be a school we would love to give a team to,” the official said.

Arons’ criticism should only intensify the PSAL’s best rivalry. In 2006, Cardozo knocked off Beacon in the city final. The year before, the Blue Devils beat the Judges in the semifinals and won the city crown last spring and again this year.

The two teams could meet again in the upcoming Mayor’s Cup, the spring tournament featuring the best CHSAA, PSAL and private schools in the five boroughs.

“They’re a great opponent and we played a great match,” Berner said. “We may see them again.”

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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