Eye on the Ball: Coach cultivates a varsity tennis program

BOB DESTEFANO PHOTO | Tennis coach Sue Warner takes a practice swing outside Fedi’s.

Although I have watched a lot of tennis, I must admit that I really know very little about the game outside of the fact that it is a lifetime sport.

I also must admit that I always preferred watching womens tennis mainly because each point has a rally. In mens tennis, it is usually watching a serve and it’s all over. I also learned for the first time that our own Shelter Island School has a varsity girl’s tennis team, which sparked my curiosity and I decided to check it out.

The person I had to speak with was someone I see just about every day at Fedi’s Market, Suzie Warner. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I knew nothing about Sue outside of her cutting my steaks, making my sandwiches or collecting my money. I was surprised to find out that she was quite an accomplished athlete along with being a fully qualified coach who happens to be very passionate about her girls and their team.

Unlike other child stars, Sue herself didn’t start playing tennis until she was 16 years old and then played for East Hampton High School in her last two years. This quick improvement earned her a partial scholarship to C.W. Post, where she played on a team that won the USTA tournament. After graduating, she became certified to teach tennis, her first job was at Sporttime in Amagansett.

Six years ago, she started a program for the girls at the 7th and 8th grade level; two of those girls, Jill Calabro and Lisa Kaasik, remain on the team. Sue’s goal was to someday have a varsity team that would give teenagers a chance to see a better grade of tennis. This year her goal was reached; for the first time, the school had a varsity team. Subsequently, the girls did find themselves competing in a much improved league. If success is measured in learning and having fun doing it, then they are having a magnificent year.

Unfortunately, this season, the team lost two of its star players, Keri Ann Mahoney and Melissa Ames, who played number 2 and 3 last season. Between the two of them, only one match was lost last year. Keri Ann had knee surgery and Melissa decided to play volleyball. One of our ongoing problems in a small school is that we don’t have enough students to play our sports. Sue said she would love to get 10 boys for a team to play in the spring but, as always, there just are not enough youngsters to go around.

I found in scoring these matches you need 10 players and four courts to win a competition. For each game, you have four singles and three doubles with each match getting one point. Playing in our singles matches we have Lisa Kaasik, Serina Kaasik, Corrine Mahoney, Caitlin Binder and Madison Hallman. In the doubles we have Evi Saunders with Nicole Poleshuk, Jenny Case with Brianna Kimmelmann and Jill Calabro with Taylor Sherman.

If you want to support the team with your presence, I think you will enjoy it. They have two home matches left with one on Friday, October 5 at 3:30 p.m. and another on Wednesday, October 10 on the school courts. Speaking of the school courts, Sue said she wanted to thank ProjectFIT  and Brian Springer for all the work he does keeping them in great shape.

On Saturday, October 13, we wish the best to Lisa and Serina Kaasik who will represent Shelter Island in the conference tournament at the William Floyd School. Let’s keep this lifetime sport going because, believe me, you will find out later the importance it will play in your life.