It was an entertaining year, to say the least, in boys’ tennis in New York City. Cardozo and Beacon staged two remarkable championship matches – both won by the Blue Demons – in the PSAL and Mayor’s Cup team finals.
The individual Mayor’s Cup was just as thrilling – highly ranked players, Asika Isoh and Gary Kushnirovic, neither of who played for their respective high-school teams (Queens Gateway Health Sciences and James Madison, respectively), going head-to-head in the final. St. Francis Prep star Alex Derienzo, who led the Terriers to their third straight CHSAA Class A title, claimed the doubles crown with teammate David Arroyave.
All-City Boys’ Tennis
Player Of The Year
Jonathan Raude, Cardozo: He led the Judges back to the PSAL Class A final, won the individual title and didn’t lose a match in high-school competition all year. He did fall to Beacon sophomore Quinton Vega in the Mayor’s Cup team competition, but that was the only blemish for Raude, who has played first singles for the Judges the last two years.
Here’s the scary part for the rest of the city: Raude will only get better. He has one year left of tennis at Cardozo before likely landing a scholarship to a major Division I program.
All-City Boys’ Tennis
Coach Of The Year
John Brennan, St. Francis Prep: Just another typical year for Brennan – winning more championships and surviving another bout with cancer. On Jan. 19, he underwent major surgery to remove cancerous oral tumors from his tongue, gums and floor of his mouth – the same operation he had 28 years before – yet returned to coach the boys to a third straight crown and second consecutive undefeated league season. The Terriers also won their first Mayor’s Cup match in a decade.
All-City Boys’ Tennis
First Team Singles
Alex Derienzo, St. Francis Prep: There wasn’t a player more responsible for the Terriers’ renaissance these last three years than Derienzo. He lost the deciding match in first doubles to Xaverian his freshman year in the city finals. He played third singles the next spring, then second and first as a senior, winning each league match. “That’s the type of leadership you need to be successful,” St. Francis Prep coach John Brennan said of Derienzo, who won the Mayor’s Cup doubles competition with David Arroyave.
Asika Isoh, Queens Gateway Health Sciences: Just because his high school, Queens Gateway Health Sciences, doesn’t have a tennis team doesn’t mean Isoh should be penalized. He has only gotten better of late, rising to the second spot in the USTA’s Eastern rankings 16-and-under division. The Cambria Heights native topped Gary Kushnirovic, No. 1 in the 18-and-under at the time, in straight sets in the Mayor’s Cup final.
Chris Jou, Stuyvesant: The future is bright for this rising sophomore. He went 7-2 in the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs, losing all three times to Beacon star Quinton Vega. Jou is ranked 94th in the 16-and-under Eastern section, a position that should only improve as he matures.
Gary Kushnirovic, James Madison: Kushnirovic may have fallen to Isoh in the Mayor’s Cup final, but he hasn’t let it bother him too much; the powerful 6-foot-3 Brooklyn native is still No. 1 in the 18-and-under Eastern rankings. He didn’t play tennis this year at Madison after he got into an argument with Madison coach Michael Davis over his availability for practice. Kushnirovic will attend West Point in the fall.
Wei Cheng Lin, Cardozo: He could’ve been No. 1 at perhaps any other PSAL program but Cardozo and Beacon. The UConn-bound ball striker enjoyed a remarkable career in Bayside, losing just one league match in three years – in doubles his sophomore season. He made the Mayor’s Cup semifinals and stabilized the Judges’ lineup the last two years at No. 2.
Filip Malaric, Hunter College HS: It was a difficult year for Hunter College, which managed just two league wins and was ousted by Bronx Science in the opening round of the PSAL Class A playoffs. Malaric was a bright spot, going 9-2 altogether, his only two losses to Chris Jou of Stuyvesant. He’s only a junior, so Hunter could improve next year, led by Malaric, 63rd in the 18-and-under.
Quinton Vega, Beacon: His was the decisive match in Beacon’s first-ever Mayor’s Cup crown, a straight-set win over Cardozo No. 1 Jonathan Raude. In the PSAL team competition, also won by Beacon, he fell to Raude in a thrilling three-setter. The sophomore wouldn’t be denied the second time around. “I had a lot of motivation to get revenge,” said Vega, who transferred into the Manhattan school this fall from a tennis academy in California and is ranked 39th in the 18-and-under Eastern rankings. He enjoyed a remarkable sophomore season at No. 1, going undefeated during the regular season and playoffs, save for the finals loss to Raude.
All-City Tennis First Team Doubles
Conor Coughlin/Kurtis Rhee, Horace Mann: Horace Mann fell in the Mayor’s Cup semifinals to Beacon, but the Lions, in a rebuilding year, did win a 10th straight Ivy League title. Coughlin, one of just two returning starters from last year’s Mayor’s Cup team victory, and Rhee were two of the main reasons for another successful season.
Joe Laskowski/Kilby Featherston, St. Francis Prep: St. Francis Prep wasn’t necessarily blessed with high-end talent. What the Terriers did have was depth and toughness. Laskowski and Featherston, whose three older sisters starred for the girls’ team in recent years, were perfect examples, a tandem that played well together.
Christian Waldron/Jeremy Schur, Beacon: Just to give you an idea of how deep Beacon was this spring, Waldron made it to the semifinals of the Mayor’s Cup in singles. Doubles, in particular first doubles, was the Blue Demons’ greatest strength. It is what separated them from Cardozo in the two championships matches; they won all four of them. Waldron, a freshman, and Schur, a sophomore, meshed well, going 5-0 together in league play. “I’m real proud,” Beacon coach Bayard Faithfull said after the two sealed the Blue Demons’ second straight PSAL team title.