Goldstein claims second straight PSAL tennis title
The bus ride from Brooklyn to the USTA National Tennis Center was the same distance as it was the day before, but there was a different feeling en route to Flushing Friday for the Leon Goldstein girls tennis team.
That’s when they learned star Becky Shtilkind would miss the PSAL Class A final after a doctor removed glass from her foot a few hours earlier.
“Shocked, scared,” sophomore Kim Salkin said of the prospect of playing without Shtilkind. “But in a sense we were pushing each other to do well…We were unsure.”
It gave coach Victoria D’Orazio an earlier glimpse into the future than she wanted, but the Dolphins still pulled off a 3-2 win over Cardozo to capture a second straight PSAL title.
“It just proves our team is strong even without our best player,” said Salkin, who stepped up and won at third singles after competing at second doubles in the semifinals Thursday.
Shtilkind said she suffered the injury Thursday morning when a piece of a broken lamp became embedded into her foot. Somehow the Stony Brook-bound senior managed to fight through the pain and beat Beacon’s Isis Gill Reid, 6-3, 6-2, in the afternoon en route to the Dolphins’ 5-0 semifinal victory.
“It hurt a lot during my match because it’s in this one sensitive spot where I always have to stay on my toes,” she said. “Every step I took, especially on my serve, it hurt a lot.”
However, the pain became more intense Friday and Shtilkind went to the doctor in the afternoon. It created a deep wound and she was told she’d be unable to play in her final PSAL team match.
“I was about to cry,” Shtilkind said. “I didn’t want to let my team down so I was really nervous, but I came anyway to cheer them on.”
Not having Shtilkind at first singles, where she’s won every match during her four years, was a shock.
“I don’t know if I can express that,” Goldstein coach Victoria D’Orazio said of the feeling when she knew Shtilkind couldn’t play. “For four years I’ve been working with Becky and for four years she’s been our No. 1 starter and for four years we’ve always relied on her for everything.”
The Dolphins had to collectively step up against second-seeded Cardozo (13-2) without their star. Destina Grunin was moved from second singles to first and Elizabeth Tsvetkov went from third to second singles.
D’Orazio elected to keep the first doubles team of Maria Shabashkevich and Nicole Druzhinsky together and move Salkin to third singles.
Salkin had her share of injury woes, as well, missing a month and a half of the season following Mrsa surgery after she contracted cellulitis on a cruise to the Bahamas.
In only her second match back – and first at singles – Salkin beat Cardozo’s Arielle John, 6-3, 6-2 to level the match at two.
“I’m ecstatic because I haven’t played this good in a long time and my game has been down,” Salkin said. “I’m just really pumped. I’m hoping I’ll just continue proving myself and I’m just going to try to do the same next year.”
Cardozo freshman sensation Sabrina Xiong beat Grunin, 6-0, 6-1 at first singles, but Tsvetkov defeated Rebecca Fakas, 6-3, 6-2 in second singles. Cardozo’s Abigail Rojas and Bernarda Reyes beat Ruta Pranaityte and Michelle Borovskoy, 6-2, 6-1 in second doubles.
The championship came down to first doubles. And when Nicole Druzhinskyand Maria Shabashkevich knocked off Olivia Poon and Steliana Fakas, Goldstein (11-1) had clinched a second straight PSAL title.
It’s a win that relieved at least some of Shtilkind’s pain.
“It was a load off my shoulders,” she said.
Shtilkind said she is hoping to be healthy enough to compete in the PSAL individual championship next week, where she is the top seed. And then there’s the matter of the Mayor’s Cup where the Dolphins will try to snap St. Francis Prep’s streak of 12 consecutive titles.
As for life after Shtilkind, Goldstein proved Friday the future is bright.
“It says that our girls are so good,” Grunin said.
Contact Dylan Butler at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter: @Dylan_Butler