The Mid-Hudson Athletic League tennis singles title is now open to new applicants. With incumbent champion Jonah Berkowitz of FDR High graduating in 2013 after winning the title four years straight and going 65-0 in MHAL play, the rest of the field has a chance.
First in line, and probably the strongest bet for the title, is Carol Tyson of Rhinebeck.
Tyson fell to Berkowitz in two sets in the 2013 championship, but in the process became the second girl ever to compete for the MHAL crown. Even though the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association has a stranglehold on Section 9 title contenders — the MHAL hasn’t won a Section 9 singles title since 1994 — Tyson will still have a chance to make a serious run at the sectional title should she win the league.
Naturally, Tyson is playing first singles in 2014.
“Carol has high expectations for this year, and I believe she is going to show that she is one of the top players in the league again,” Rhinebeck head coach Dave Jutton told the Observer.
Alec Gautier, a freshman who played third singles in 2013, moves into the second slot behind Tyson. Moving into Gautier’s vacated position will be Azure Leffeld, a sophomore.
Leffeld “is a strong singles player and I look for him to do well at third singles, and hopefully compete in the MHAL tournament at the end of the season,” Jutton said.
While the singles scenario is set in Rhinebeck, the doubles are still slightly up in the air as the regular season is getting delayed because of lingering cold weather.
Elliott Hoffman and Will Fox, Rhinebeck’s first doubles team, which Jutton said never lost more than three matches in a season, graduated in 2013. Replacing them on the first team will be Rachel Tigges and Emily Sullivan.
“Emily is a senior and has worked very hard during the winter to improve her game. Rachael is a junior and new to our team this year. She is learning quickly, and I am excited to see how she and Emily are going to compete this season,” said Jutton.
The second doubles team has the potential to be a rotating door of sorts, at least early on. One half of the duo will be senior Maddie Olsen, and the other half will be Tanner Newman, Derek Livesey, and Mitchell Hutchins, all three of whom are freshmen.
“I believe in each and every one of our players, but since we haven’t had a match yet, it’s difficult to tell how our doubles teams are going to gel,” Jutton noted, adding ” I know that Carol and Alec are going to play even better than last year, so I believe our strength is our singles right now.”
Jutton is fortunate to have some wiggle room when it comes to putting together the second doubles team: with 15 players on the roster, all of whom have some game, he’s fielding a team that he says is bigger than the average Hawk squad.