The biggest challenge this season for girls tennis coach Sean Passan figures to be getting all of his players enough matches to keep them razor sharp. None of the Dolphins' three Western League contests so far have been very competitive beyond the No. 1 singles position and the other teams' lack of depth was the most obvious in Wednesday's 6-1 victory at Hamilton.
Hamilton's top singles player, Abby Esrock, beat Palisades freshman Diana Silvers 8-1 to score her team's only point, but the Yankees managed to take only three games in the other six pro sets combined.
Back on the court after having missed each of the Dolphins' first two league matches, Silvers was given a crack at Esrock, one of the best players in the City Section. Palisades senior Jessie Corneli, who sat out Wednesday's match, beat Esrock 7-6 (4) in the first round of league play last season.
"When I went to the net she was passing me, so I tried to keep the ball in play more," said Silvers, whose older sister Elizabeth (Class of 2010) also played for the Dolphins. "She's an older and more experienced player, but I still think I could've done better against her."
Katie Vincent was also itching to play for real after missing the first two league matches, but her pro set at No. 2 singles ended prematurely when Hamilton's Sharone Yiffi retired after the third game, claiming a wrist injury. Vincent was up 2-1 at the time.
"I was disappointed because I was looking forward to playing today and I had just broken her serve," Vincent said. "I won, but I would've rather played it out."
Two freshmen dominated at the third and fourth singles spots, Jesse Zand winning 8-0 at No. 3 and Alexandra Kugler winning 8-2 at No. 4 in the City's straight-up, best-of-seven format.
"We essentially have two varsity teams, that's how I look at it," Passan said. "Maybe we don't have that one superstar-type player like Abby [Esrock] or Yvonne [Likomanova] at LACES, but we have a whole bunch of really good players. I could put a different lineup out there every match and we'd still be successful."
Palisades was even more dominant in doubles, not dropping a single game in three pro sets. Senior co-captain Perri Zaret and partner Julie Takakjian won 8-0 at the No. 1 spot. They have now won 42 games and lost only three since teaming up for the Dolphins' first league match Sept. 21 against Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies.
Junior Sara Freedland, who won at No. 4 singles in the Dolphins' previous match against Venice, teamed with freshman Izzy Guterson to win 8-0 at No. 3 doubles and winning by the same score at No. 2 doubles were juniors Julia Levitan and Alexa Ebner.
"We played together all of last year so we're good friends both on and off the court," said Ebner, who attended Archer School prior to arriving at Palisades. "I think our biggest strength is our chemistry. We know each other's strengths and we don't get mad at each other. We put the 'fun' in tennis... we work hard and we play hard."
Although they both prefer singles, Ebner and Levitan have grown to enjoy doubles and were thrilled when Passan told them the day before that they had been slated to play against Hamilton.
"They seemed intimidated by us in the beginning so we wanted to take advantage right away and show them we were the better team," said Levitan, who went to until fifth grade, then went to middle school at . "We all feel this is our year. We have so much depth across the board. It's a really talented team."
Such is Passan's dilemma every match... who to play and where? It's a "problem" most of his fellow coaches would love to have.
"The main objective at this stage is to work on our individual skills within each match," Passan said. "Every player has strokes they can improve on and bettering those skills will help us once we get to the playoffs."
Palisades hosts Fairfax at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the .
Palisades 6, Hamilton 1
(1) Diana Silvers, Palisades, lost to Abby Esrock, 8-1.
(2) Katie Vincent, Palisades, d. Sharone Yiffi, 2-1, retired (injury).
(3) Jesse Zand, Palisades, d. Kate Corry-Saavedra, 8-0.
(4) Alexandra Kugler, Palisades, d. Melina Melgoza, 8-2.
(1) Julie Takakjian-Perri Zaret, Palisades, d. Danielle Sork-Kira McKinley, 8-0.
(2) Alexa Ebner-Julia Levitan, Palisades, d. Nicole Guillo-Alexis Sork, 8-0.
(3) Izzy Guterson-Sara Freedland, Palisades, d. Hayley Moyal-Sejal Patel, 8-0.
Records: Palisades 4-0-1, 3-0; Hamilton 3-2, 1-2.