Panthers bare fangs in League tournaments

While the Rye Neck girls’ tennis team finished second to Briarcliff for the League III-B title, the Panthers had the last laugh in the League singles and doubles tournaments.

Senior captain Midori Takasaki defeated two Bears, one after the other. She topped Olivia Tane 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the semifinals of the singles tournament October 13 on her opponents’ home court, and then bested Sachi Da’ve in the championship finale 6-3, 6-2. In the doubles final, the Panthers’ Caroline Lambillotte and Kalypso Buitoni beat Briarcliff’s Olivia Lacy-Thompson and Sam Muratori in a 6-3, 7-6 (3) thriller at Rye Neck.
“It was just a really fun match,” said Buitoni afterwards. “We had a great time out there, and it was amazing to have all our friends and family cheering us on. It was a tough battle, but you want to win it in a tiebreaker.”

Lambillotte and Buitoni were beyond impressive in the championship tilt. Lambillotte, a Belgian senior who transferred to Rye Neck from the French-American School of New York before the season, displayed an intimidating array of weapons. She unleashed merciless forehands and backhands upon her opponents, and was able to stretch the court to unreachable lengths. Her perfect placement was difficult enough for Briarcliff to deal with; the fact they came off her racquet like lasers made it impossible to return. At the net, she showed off sinister wrists that transformed her into a brick wall. Buitoni was also a menace, digging out countless shots, which she returned as fireballs down the alleys. A blistering serve decimated Briarcliff’s return game as well.

Rye Neck’s doubles team trailed 1-3 in the second set after taking the first, but stormed back by winning four consecutive games. Briarcliff rallied again and forced Lambillotte and Buitoni to play a tiebreaker. The Bears jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Panthers ended any threat of a third and decisive set by reeling off seven straight points.

Rye Neck finished the regular season 9-3 overall and 8-2 in the league. Along with Takasaki, Lambillotte, and Buitoni, the Panthers received great play from players like Kyra Babakian, Sage Reisner, Janell Smith, Melissa Martini, Sybilla Buitoni, Carissa Fernandez, Alexandra Tartorella, and the aptly named Cassie Swinghammer.

“Our coach — Mark Canno — is incredible and has supported us so much,” said Takasaki as a reason for Rye Neck’s success. “This team has a lot of seniors who have been together since the 8th grade, so the leadership is strong. It’s kind of sad our run is winding down, but we could not have asked for a better season.”

Canno, a 1985 Rye Neck graduate who is a homebuilder and real estate broker, was extremely proud of his team’s run. Up next for some of the players is the conference tournament.

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