There are only a few instances in my 25 years covering New Paltz and Highland sports that a program has been as dominant as New Paltz tennis — that’s boys and girls — with the girls, like the boys last Spring, having their third straight undefeated season and winning the MHAL team title. With the boys Isaac Cheruiyot and Noah Kalus winning their third straight MHAL doubles title in the Spring, it was the girls turn this Fall as Natalie Meyer won the first singles title since 1993’s Katie Ott. And not only that, but in going undefeated, the Huguenots won 43 of 44 matches completed (one was called for darkness)…in other words: total dominance.
And what is the constant in this success, you may ask? Why it is long-time coach Scott Taylor, who despite graduations and injuries has overseen the program with his notion of Tennis Values, the Golden Rule being “treat others the way you want to be treated”. That and his inclusive attitude toward his players, including this year when 28 girls came out for the team and he had his three captains — Natalie Meyer, Ariana Rodriguez and Emily Wong-Pan — become essentially assistant coaches teaching and guiding the younger girls.
“I knew we would have a good team this year, but never did I imagine that we would win almost every match we played,” said Taylor. “Usually depth is the key to a good team, and we’ve won previous championships because my second doubles team is usually much better than all the others. This year, my ace-in-the-hole was everyone in each position. Winning 43 of 44 matches is unheard of, a tremendous accomplishment.”
“Our toughest match was with Spackenkill, and it was an incredibly competitive, tight match. Three of the five matches went three sets. Natalie won 6-4 in the third set; Ariana couldn’t complete her match (it went over two-and-a-half hours and was called by darkness (Rodriguez leading); and Emily and Eliza (Behrke) at first doubles started slowly, losing the first set before storming back to win in three sets. We showed our grittiness in that match and never gave up.”
Individually, Natalie Meyer won the MHAL singles tournament and went 9-0 in the league. “Natalie had an outstanding season and couldn’t have ended her high school career any better. And she saved her best for last,” said Taylor. ” She literally took it up a gear when she got to the semifinals and finals, winning both in straight sets. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Second singles Ariana Rodriguez went 7-1, losing only to Saugerties. “She had some of the toughest matches this year and grittiness, toughness and competitiveness characterize Ariana, and she rose to the occasion every time.”
Third singles Aidan Hoover went 9-0. “Aidan grew with confidence with every match. She’s a quiet girl, and her athleticism will surprise you. She didn’t look dominating when she played, but most of her wins were by 6-0 or 6-1. She had an outstanding year and saved her best for last, too, losing in the MHAL tournament to a previous singles champion 6-3, 6-3, and putting up a fight against a top player in our league.”
At first doubles Emily Wong-Pan and Eliza Behrke were 8-0. “They dominated in doubles action and were a great pair to watch, with different strengths that complimented each other. Emily became a volleying giant and Eliza often hit great returns that set Emily at the net and produced weak shots from opponents.”
Second doubles Pilar Duvivier and Ruthie Crosby-Lizarde went 7-0. “This team would have challenged most of the first doubles teams, they were that good. Pilar has a great serve and Ruthie moves so well that no ball could get past her. They epitomized the team concept. It was fun to watch them and see them improve throughout the season.”
Taylor loses Meyer, Rodriguez, Wong-Pan and Duvivier to graduation, “but for now we’ll sit back and bask in what happened and give thanks, said Taylor. “It was a quite a season, but next year will come sooner that we think, and we’ll get back to work.”