Racket sports /By Charlie Garfinkel
Schopp, Khmylev top women’s rankings
Carolyn Schopp is the area’s No. 1-ranked women’s tennis player for the second straight year. The 33-year-old lawyer for Fisher- Price won the Muny Open Singles and was a semifinalist in the UB summer tournament.
In capturing her second consecutive Muny Open title, Schopp repeated her 2007 success of not dropping a set throughout the tournament.
Schopp is everything that personifies an athlete, let alone a tennis player. She is a magnificent competitor, a sportswoman nonpareil, has great drive and determination, is gracious in victory or defeat, loves the competition, and has a great passion and love for the sport of tennis.
Schopp has an outstanding backhand that she uses to frustrate her far younger opponents with sharp angles and cross-court shots. Add a great net game that is arguably the best in Western New York women’s tennis and you have an outstanding singles and doubles player.
She proved her doubles prowess by winning the Muny Open Doubles with longtime doubles partner and friend Jenny Schneider.
Rankings are based on local tournament play, head-to-head matches, high school competition and results of Erie County Interscholastic and Sectional high school championships. Nine players met the standards that were set up this year.
Final rankings were determined by the above criteria, local experts and by this writer. The rest of the nine honorees:
• No. 2, Olga Khmylev: What more can be said about one of the greatest high school players in the history of Western New York? For the past two years she has won the ECIC and Sectional championships without losing a set. If you include her league play results, her past two-year record is a scintillating 53-0. The smooth-stroking all-around athlete (daughter of Yuri Khmylev, a former Buffalo Sabre) has twice finished runner- up in the New York State high school singles championships.
For her athletic and academic prowess, the 17-year-old senior at Williamsville East has been awarded a full scholarship to Boston College.
• No. 3, Miranda Podlas: The 16-year-old Williamsville East junior has made incredible progress the past two years. Podlas played No. 1 singles in the beginning of the year and Khmylev played No. 1 the rest of the year. Podlas has been undefeated in league play for the past two years and played a great match in this year’s Sectional finals, losing to Khmylev, 7-5, 6-4.
Podlas played first singles on the Western team in the Empire State Games and beat highly regarded Rochester star Elana Marie Verdasco in the Village Glen final. She is the overwhelming favorite to win the ECIC and Sectional championships next year.
• No. 4, Monica Veith: In 2007 Veith was a member of the Williamsville East triumvirate, along with Khmylev and Podlas, which formed the nucleus of one of the strongest women’s high school teams to have ever competed in this area. Veith, 18, lost in the Muny finals and won a summer tournament at the Miller Tennis Center. She is on a full tennis scholarship at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
• No. 5, Caroline Bristol: The 17-year-old Orchard Park senior has been playing for her school since she was in seventh grade. She has played first singles for the past three years and played second singles behind Podlas in the Empire State Games. She was undefeated in league competition and reached the semifinals of both the ECICs and the Sectional championships. Bristol attributes her outstanding stamina to the rigors of also being on the school’s track team.
• No. 6, Jen Ickowski: Ickowski’s win over Khmylev in the quarterfinals of the Muny Championships was her season’s highlight. Even though it was evident that Khmylev was severely handicapped by a debilitating back injury, Ickowski played great tennis. She advanced to the semifinals, where she lost a wonderful three-set match against Veith. Ickowski, 19, also won the June Miller Tennis tournament over Tina Miller in the finals. Ickowksi is a sophomore at Buffalo State College and is greatly involved in USTA tennis.
• No. 7, Tina Miller: Unfortunately, the 17-year-old Williamsville North junior had a shortly curtailed season due to health concerns. She still reached the finals of one summer tournament and lost in an early round in the University at Buffalo tournament. The three-time ECIC champion hopes to move up in the rankings with increased play this coming year.
• No. 8, Jenna Suffoletto: The 21-year-old former University of Pittsburgh player lost a tough three setter to Ickowski in the Muny Championships and to Miller in the Miller Tennis Center tournament this past summer. Her tennis will be greatly limited in the near future as she has plans to attend medical school.
• No. 9, Catie Wickline: The former 18-year-old Orchard Park star is slated to play third doubles at West Virginia, where she is a freshman. She lost to Ickowski in the semis in the Miller tournament and to Schopp in the Muny tournament. She has a strong serve and a consistent forehand.
Super 16 qualifier
The $2,500 Orvilles Super 16 Invitational Tennis Tournament will take place at the Miller Tennis Center from Jan. 2 to 4. Sherif Zaher and Marcus Fugate, last year’s winner and runner-up, are already entered. Twelve other outstanding players from Western New York and nearby areas are also expected to compete.
The remaining two spots will be selected from a qualifying tournament to be held at the MTC, Dec. 31 to Jan. 1. Joe Schafer and Andre Pozantidis, two of the area’s top junior players, are already entered in the qualifying tournament.
Prize money is $1,200 for the winner and $700 for the runner-up. The fee for entering is $25. Call Steve Beatty at 632-8600 to play in the qualifier.