In Pittsburgh, where I'm from, we like to put french fries on our salads.
An odd pairing, to be sure, but it works. (I promise).
The relationship between Fair Lawn High School doubles tennis partners Jessica Perchuk and Sharon Cherkassky is not unlike that of a Pittsburgh salad. (Don't ask me who's the heaping pile of fried starchy goodness and who's the crispy bed of Romaine lettuce).
“Playing with Sharon is an experience,” said Perchuk, dressed to impress in a small meeting room in the high school’s main office. “I’ll leave it at that.”
“I’m not really serious and she is,” elaborated Cherkassky, seated next to Perchuk looking like she just rolled out of bed in a t-shirt and sweat pants. “So she gets annoyed with me.”
The unconventional combo made good a couple weekends ago when they became the first doubles team in the high school's history to reach the finals of the county tournament. The pair beat duos from Fort Lee, Ridgewood and Tenafly before falling to powerhouse Northern Highlands in the final.
Coach Matthew Markman said he paired them strategically. They not only complement each other on the court -- Perchuk is consistent and Cherkassky volleys well and can finish at the net -- but also personality-wise.
"Sharon enjoys herself a little bit too much, Jess sometimes is a little too intense," Markman said. "Between the two of them we met the middle ground. It’s a good dynamic."
The successful Perchuk-Cherkassky pairing has been short-lived, however.
Perchuk, a junior who played singles last year, had only been playing doubles with Cherkassky this year as she recovered from a meniscus injury. Since receiving medical clearance to begin playing singles again last month, Perchuk has slid into the third singles spot behind superstar junior Valerie Shklover and talented sophomore Tamila Akhunova .
Cherkassky, who has since jumped to first singles, is now teamed up with sophomore Danielle Levine, whom Markman believes she's actually most comfortable playing with.
"Danielle’s very intense, but quiet," Markman said. "Sharon doesn’t like to be barked at, so Danielle will be good with her because she doesn’t say much, she’ll just play off of her."
Just about any combination Markman's used this year has found success. The team is 13-0 and in the midst of a deep state sectional playoff run.
In the Cutters' state quarterfinals victory over Randolph High School on Tuesday, Perchuk won from third singles and the Levine-Cherkassky combo played to a draw in first doubles.
The undefeated girls tennis team matches up with Ridgewood in the state semis on Thursday.