A Winning H.S. Girls Tennis Program Continues To Bloom
The sports world does not throw out the term dynasty lightly. Professional teams like the New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Celtics have been celebrated for their winning traditions in years past.
The high school sports world in New York has had teams that have had similar success in their sport. The press has noted Abraham Lincoln's boys' basketball team that has won four of the last five PSAL championships, St. Anthony's of Long Island's yearly CHSAA football titles and Christ the King's women's basketball team, who have won numerous city and state titles in the last 20 years.
The one dynasty that may not have had its share of press but nonetheless can be held to the same standards is the high school team that Rockaway Park's Shinann Featherston belongs to.
The St. Francis Prep junior girls' tennis player has had intimate knowledge of the winning tradition that envelops the program. The rest of the CHSAA has had no answer for the Terriers as they completed their ninth consecutive state championship with a sweep of Mary Louis last Tuesday afternoon at Alley Pond Tennis Center.
The accomplishments can not be ignored or discarded. In the eight years that head coach John Brennan has run the girls program, St. Francis has won 126 matches and seven Mayor's Cups in a row and accomplished another historical accomplishment this season. Opponents in singles and doubles matches did not win a point as the Terriers in every match. Featherston, the #1 singles player on St. Francis Prep, easily won over Mary Louis' Elizabeth Zipp 8-0 but she isn't the only star of this program. Senior Natalie Fouche finished her undefeated career won the doubles title with teammate Shraddha Prabhu
An endless stream of talent, with some members of the team playing year around, has found their way to the tennis court. Featherston may be one of the noted of the top players in the city, but the team and not the individual is always stressed as a key to victory. It's not hard to motivate a team to continue their excellence. It's one of the pleasures of the job the 30 year head coach most enjoys.
"We've won seven in a row Mayor's Cups and that I've really enjoyed. We've played some really good teams and we got to play really well to win those. "I've told them that you're not playing against other players. Play to your level of excellence. Have a standard that you set for yourself. Don't play to the level of your opponent. Play to your level and see if they can match it."
If you speak to the players, much of the credit for their development is given to Brennan for installing a sense of pride and attention to detail in playing with their teammates and individual non-school tournaments. Featherston, who has won the Mayor's Cup singles title this past spring and ranked in the top three of the Eastern Tennis Association, is thankful for his guidance.
"We wanted to keep this winning streak going so that motivates us and especially for Mr. Brennan and for the school. So that motivates us all the time," Featherston, who was recently named an All-American for her outstanding play at the end of September.
Shinann isn't the only member of the family to keep that eight year streak alive.
When older sister Ellenoira arrived at St. Francis Prep seven years ago, the program has just finished winning its first title. Another sister Martina, joined two years later and also finished their careers unbeaten.Success has translated to the next level for the older Featherston sisters. Ellenoira and Martin, a junior and freshman respectively, gained scholarships to Fordham University and currently play with the school's tennis team.
What the program has done is give the Featherstons and other players to opportunity to maximize their chances to get to scholarships. Though winning is a byproduct of the success they have had, it does not seem to make the players cocky or overconfident. The core values of hardwork, disciple and having fun has been the factors that make St. Francis a team to be looked at and admired for years to come.