Huntington High School’s junior varsity girls’ tennis team was a force to be reckoned with this fall. The Blue Devils compiled an 11-2 record while showcasing some exceptionally talented underclassmen.
The 12 player strong team was coached by Washington School physical education teacher Eric Mininni and captained by Jane Callery and Emily Kustera.
The Blue Devil JV was led by Isabella Palacios, Amanda Ganley, Isabella Holland and the team’s two captains, who never disappointed.
“Isabella Palacios is one the hardest working players on the team,” Mininni said. “She gets to everything and her tennis skills are improving over every match.”
A seventh grader who was promoted to the high school level, Ganley was called a “rising star” after turning in a sensational season in the No. 2 singles position. “She’s a fierce competitor with the skills to match,” Mininni said.
Holland is another talented seventh grader who qualified for a place on the high school team. “She impressed me during the early weeks of the season and went on to prove that she’s the real deal,” Mininni said.
The Blue Devils relied upon Callery and Kustera in every meet. “They are both great leaders and were the grounding force of the team,” Mininni said. “They both made major strides this year, getting the opportunity to play in varsity matches along with the playoffs.
The full roster included sophomores Jane Callery, Keira Coulter, Keylis Flores-Velasquez, Ellie Kaufman and Kimberly Panamento; freshmen Vincenza Garofalo, Emily Kustera, Tess Markotsis and Elizabeth Michaelson; eighth graders Isabella Palacios, Claire Parks and Mia Kaufman; and seventh graders Amanda Ganley and Isabella Holland.
Mininni pointed to a pair of highlights this season. “The first one was a loss to Half Hollow Hills East, but we played tough in every single match and we only lost 5-2,” the coach said. “Anyone who knows how talented Hills is would understand how that is a big accomplishment. And to further prove my point, the varsity needed to take Jane and Emily, my top doubles players. So my lineup was not as strong as it could have been.”
The second highlight was a win over crosstown rival Harborfields. “They’ve given us trouble over the past couple of years,” Mininni said. “It was a satisfying feeling for the girls to beat them after losing to them the last three years. We won, 4-3 and the meet winning match was decided in a tie breaker! Keira Coulter came up big for us to seal the deal.”
With the return of the tennis team at J. Taylor Finley Middle School re-establishing the pipeline to the high school program, Mininni expects to put another highly competitive team on the court next fall.