Madison Lee was good enough to play on the Great Neck South girls varsity tennis team last year, as an 8th grader.
But after spending a few days with the varsity, she decided she wasn’t quite ready, and wanted to stay on her middle school team.
Turns out to have been a great decision, because she sure has shown she’s ready now. The freshman has dominated the competition at No.1 singles this fall, going 11-2 in singles and helping the Rebels reach the playoffs.
Lee, a 14-year-old, has lost only to Garden City’s Nina Wiese twice in helping lead Great Neck South.
“I went into the season a little nervous, worrying a little about my results,” Lee said. “But the whole team is super supportive, and my other teammates are really good, and it’s made it a lot easier to play. It’s been going way better than I had planned.”
“She’s the best player we’ve had in my six years as coach here, and we’ve had some good players,” said Great Neck South coach Andrew Tuomey. “I knew from last year that she was really good, and then this year when she came out I wasn’t sure how she would handle playing against seniors. But she’s handled herself really well and the team has accepted her totally.”
This past weekend at the Nassau County championships, Lee and her partner, senior Kira Diaz, made a fantastic run to the finals in doubles, finally losing only to the defending state champions from Schreiber High School, Dasha Perfiliev and Ellie Ross, 6-2, 6-3 Sunday.
Lee said she first began playing tennis when she was 8, not taking the sport too seriously at first but gradually finding she loved the competition and the exercise.
She’s been training at Sportime Roslyn under coach Jay Harris for the past four years, and Lee has been competing in USTA tournaments (she’s currently ranked No. 47 in the 14 and under USTA Eastern rankings).
“I started playing tournaments right before COVID, and we really didn’t know anything about how they worked,” she said with a laugh. “And then when things started again after Covid, I started to get the hang of it and traveling more and doing a little better.”
Tuomey said Lee’s greatest strength as a player is her ability to re-set points when she’s in a defensive position, staying alive until she can control the point again.
“She’s great at lobs and has a really high tennis IQ,” Tuomey said. “She’s a cerebral, smart kid, and she’s got great footwork, and she’s really smooth. She glides around the court and manages to work herself back into the point no matter the situation.”
For Lee, a big part of her maturity this year, she said, is learning to let wins and losses go as soon as the match is over.
“I just normally don’t like when lots of people watch me play,” she said, “but I’m getting used to it. “And being a part of a team with so many people cheering for you really helps.”
Lee and her doubles partner, senior Kira Diaz, competed in the Nassau County championships on Oct. 15-16.
With so much high school tennis in front of her, Lee said she dreams of playing college tennis one day, and maybe even turning pro, like her idol, Canadian star Leylah Fernandez.
“I’m hoping to keep playing high school tennis and tournaments and keep improving, and then we’ll see what happens,” Lee said. “Right now I’m having a lot of fun just playing and competing.”