A loss in last year’s state finals fueled Rachel Arbitman’s championship drive in 2018.
The Hewlett sophomore’s determination was rewarded on Oct. 29 when she captured the NYSPHSAA individual girls tennis tournament title with a 6-3, 6-0 win against Yorktown’s Caitlyn Ferrante.
“I knew that I had to come out very strong because I came up short last year in my only loss of the year,” said Arbitman, who fell in last year’s state championship match to Julia Andreach of Rochester’s Our Lady of Mercy, 6-4, 6-2. “I knew what I had to do.”
The top-seeded Arbitman reached the championship match with a 6-1, 6-4 win against Briarcliff’s Rebecca Lim. She won four matches over a three-day period at Tri-City Fitness Center just outside of Albany to cap a memorable weekend that included bonding with other top players on Long Island during a more than three-hour drive upstate.
“She works so hard and everything she gets she deserves,” said fourth-year Hewlett coach Abby Samlin. “I couldn’t be more proud of her and the way she conducted herself all year and especially the state tournament representing our school and team.”
Arbitman reached the top of the New York State mountain two weeks after capturing the Nassau County individual title for a second straight year over Calista Sha of Friends Academy (6-1, 6-4.) Her dominance helped lead Hewlett to its first ever county team finals appearance where the Lady Bulldogs fell just short with 4-3 loss to Syosset at Eisenhower Park.
“I love being a part of a team with all the girls,” said Arbitman, who has opted to play for her high school despite having opportunities to compete on a higher level at United States Tennis Association fall tournaments. “Being with my best friends is an amazing feeling.”
Samlin is impressed with Arbitman’s commitment to play high school tennis given her high ability level and how she also shines academically. Samlin said Arbitman’s presence has prompted other players to step up their games and make Hewlett a championship contender.
“It’s unusual that a player of her caliber is allowed to play on a school team,” Samlin said. “We benefit from having her and she benefits from being in a team environment…It’s a win-win situation for all.”
Arbitman said being a part of the Hewlett tennis program has provided “balance” to a busy life that involves rigorous training on and off the courts throughout the year and at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens and Christopher Morley Tennis in Roslyn. She has high future tennis aspirations to play at a top college program with strong academics, but plans to continue suiting up for Hewlett because of the camaraderie of her teammates and the lifelong memories created from playing a varsity sport.
“I encourage everyone to play tennis on their high school team,” she said. “It’s one of the best choices I have ever made.”