SCARSDALE Back when she was 7, Mayu Tezuka had aspirations of becoming a professional tennis player.
While her ambition today is not as high as it was back then, the experiences that she gained from it, which included playing against strong competition in Europe for a couple of years when she was 12 and 13 years old, have been apparent during Section 1’s Conference III tournament at Edgemont High School.
The sophomore from Keio, who played doubles in the tournament last year, has more than lived up to the billing of being the tournament’s top-seeded singles player. She has lost only a combined three games so far in her three matches in the tournament. On Thursday, she defeated Pleasantville’s Olivia Ashton 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals to clinch an appearance in the title match.
“I enjoy playing tennis, but during the match, I concentrate,” Tezuka said. “My motivation is to play well in each match. I want to improve my skills; I want to go to states.”
Tezuka will face off against Blind Brook’s Lauren Santarsiero, the tournament’s second seed, in the final. Santarsiero defeated Ardsley’s Emily Shteynberg 6-4, 6-1 in the quarterfinals before defeating Keio’s Wakana Tanaka in the semifinals. They split the first two sets, 6-3 and 5-7, to force a 10-point tiebreaker, which Santarsiero won 10-8 after being down 5-1.
“It was all mental; I knew all my strokes were there,” said Santarsiero, a junior. “I think my second serve and coming to net and being aggressive helped me today.”
In the doubles bracket, Rye Neck’s Clemence Balzano and Mizuki Shionoya, the top seed, were tested against Bronxville’s eighth-grade pairing of Katharine Forst and Eva Dani. After resuming the match, which was suspended the previous day due to darkness, Balzano and Shionoya won the first set 6-4 and narrowly won the second set, 7-5, to avoid playing a 10-point tiebreaker.
“A 10-point tiebreak, we don’t know what will happen,” Shionoya said. “This is the first match that we’ve played together that was tough.”
“It’s a really good win,” Balzano added. “Now we’re confident; it was good to win a match like this.”
The Rye Neck duo were up one set on Edgemont’s Rabashruti Kanna and Ariella Zagorsky when the match was suspended due to darkness. The match will resume on Saturday. The winner of that match will face off against Bronxville’s Christina Brumbaugh and Caroline Schetlick, who defeated Rye Neck’s Julia Wright and Nagisa Shionoya 6-4, 6-4 in their semifinal match.
“There’s some good competition out there,” Schetlick said. “We were aggressive and trusting our shots, while keeping it in mind we had to keep it steady as well.”
“We’re just killing it right now,” Brumbaugh added. “We had our ebbs and flows, but it’s about figuring it out, being persistent and finding a way to close it out.”