Girls Tennis Team Expects to Compete for League Title
The talented young Fair Lawn High School girls tennis team no longer lives and dies with star player Valerie Shklover.
Despite the junior phenom's individual exploits, which include being named the 2011 Bergen County Player of the Year and Tennis Recruiting Network's second ranked junior in the state, the team as a whole has struggled.
This year, with Shklover focusing on the United States Tennis Association circuit and available to the Cutters only for big matches, the team's other girls have had to step up.
Ninth year coach Matthew Markman said so far they've been more than up to the challenge.
"When [Valerie] was a freshman, I might not have necessarily wanted to use her, but if I didn’t I had nothing behind her," he said. "But now I have a lot, everybody’s just doing really, really well."
The young team enters the week 5-0 with a great chance to win the league title, finish top five in the county tournament and make some noise in the state sectionals, Markman said.
When Shklover's not available, the team's top singles player has been the much-improved sophomore Tamila Akhunova.
"She worked her ass off [this summer]," said Markman, who saw Akhunova transform herself from an average third singles player as a freshman to a formiddable first singles player this year through hard offseason training.
Behind Akhunova at second singles (or third, if Shklover is around) has been stellar sophomore Victoria Piskarev. Freshman Danielle Mandel, a backup singles player who has filled in at third singles when necessary, has also been excellent, Markman said.
Junior Jessica Perchuk, who played second singles last year but has been limited to mostly doubles play this season as she recovers from a meniscus tear, will silde into the singles mix somewhere after her knee fully recovers. In her first singles appearance of the year on Friday, Perchuk played from the third singles spot, behind both Akhunova and Piskarev, and delivered a straight set shutout win over her Lakeland opponent.
Prior to moving back to singles, Perchuk had been impressive anchoring the second doubles squad with sophomore Sharon Cherkassky. Freshman Nicole Badalyan and sophomore Daria Zaslavsky are undefeated in first doubles.
"The doubles have been really, really solid," Markman said. "It’s just a really, really good team, and that’s what you want, where with every spot you have a chance of winning."
As good as the team has been without their star, Markman has made sure to secure Shklover's appearance for about a half-dozen of the team's big matches. Shklover, whose TRN rank among juniors has hovered between 45 and 68 in the country this year, has agreed to play in the individual counties and team states, but will not compete in the individual state tournament due to conflicts, Markman said.