KERHONKSON, N.Y. – This year’s USCAK National Tennis Championships held at Soyuzivka Heritage Center during Labor Day weekend was marked by new faces, unexpected situations and uncooperative weather due to the remnants of Hurricane Harvey that affected Texas. There was also no play on Sunday due to heavy rain all day. However, as regulars like to say, “the magic of Soyuzivka” prevailed despite some of the problems along the way.
Ending an impressive six-year cycle of first- and second-place wins since 2011 between Marko Krasij (Texas) and Mykola Stroynick, (New York state) in the men’s division, this year’s tournament resulted in two phenomenal “co-champions” due to some complicated issues and unrelenting Mother Nature. Sharing the number one spot were Adrian Charchalis, outstanding high school senior and accomplished junior player, and winner of regional championships from Maryland; and former member/captain of the Ukrainian National Team and a coach originally from Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, Oleksandr Zavorotnyi, who is now a teaching tennis pro at a tennis facility in New Jersey.
In the women’s final, Maryna Zhytska, a newcomer from Odesa, Ukraine, beat last year’s winner, Lesia Bilak Schinnerer, originally from Uzhorod, Ukraine, now a resident of Pennsylvania, 6-2, 6-2. A six-time USCAK winner, Ms. Schinnerer is the mother of two sons who also competed in this tournament.
Ms. Schinnerer is being inducted into the Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame at Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey in Whippany on September 16 for her accomplishments in tennis in the U.S. and Ukraine.
Ms. Zhytska made these comments after the match: “This is the first time I came to Soyuzivka, even though I have been teaching tennis at a club not far from here for the past year. I like Soyuzivka very much, and I will come back next year and tell my friends to come also.”
Both Zavorotnyi and Zhytska were encouraged to participate in this tournament by Yuri Kolb, former national tennis coach of Ukraine and former head coach at the Uzhorod Sport Club. Kolb said that he will bring many more tennis players to the 2018 tournament due to the positive experiences this year.
This was the 62nd year that USCAK (the Ukrainian-based acronym for the Ukrainian Sports Federation of the U.S.A. and Canada) has been conducting this tournament at Soyuzivka. It is sponsored by the Ukrainian National Association (UNA), a fraternal organization that has been serving the Ukrainian community unyieldingly for more than a century with endowments, life insurance and annuities, and also funds the trophies for the tournament; and John Hynansky, owner of Winner Automotive Group (DE) and Winner-Ukraine with many companies in the U.S. and Ukraine, which provides monetary stipends to the men’s, women’s and junior groups. These stipends are what help attract talented players to the tournament. Soyuzivka Ukrainian Heritage Center is also a proud sponsor of the tournament, providing the tennis courts and other amenities. Special thanks were extended to Soyuzivka Manager Nestor Paslawsky and Assistant Manager Stefko Drabyk.
The opening ceremonies for both the swimming and tennis championships were held on Saturday, September 2, on the deck of the swimming pool. USCAK President Myron Bytz welcomed all the players, guests and organizers to this special event. After the American, Ukrainian and Canadian national anthems were played, he introduced Yurko Sawchak, USCAK tennis director, Roman Hirniak, former mayor of Randolph, N.J., and Taissa Bokalo, who represented the swimming championships.
In getting to the finals, Charchalis eliminated Steve Sosiak (New Jersey) 6-1, 6-0, last year’s men’s champion Marko Krasij (Texas) 6-3, 6-2, and Ben Sulsky (New York) 6-2, 6-1 in the semi finals.
The other finalist, Zavorotnyi, defeated Mykola Nalywayko (New Jersey) 6-2, 6-0, former champion Stroynick 6-0, 6-2, and in the semi finals Ihor Ferencevych (New York) 6-0, 6-1.
In the semi finals Schinnerer beat Svetlana Goletz (Connecticut) 6-0, 6-0, and Zhytska overcame Natalka Pronchick, (Massachusetts) by the same score. Pronchick took third place after she bested Goletz 6-1, 6-2.
Some men played in more than one group because they enjoy the competition.
Representing the combined men’s 35-45 group, Sosiak won over Oleh Slupchynskyj (New Jersey) 6-0, 6-3.
In the semi finals of the men’s 55 group, Yaroslav Sydorak bested Petro Goletz 6-0, 6-1, and Bohdan Kucyna beat Walter Dziwak 6-0, 6-2.
In the semis of the men’s 65 group, Sydorak beat Dziwak 6-1, 6-0, and George Walchuk won over Goletz 6-0, 6-1. Sydorak withdrew from both finals, resulting in trophies being awarded to Kucyna in M55’s and Walchuk in M65’s.
In the men’s feed-in, Marko Pronchick (Massachusetts) defeated Sosiak 6-2, 6-1, receiving the winner’s trophy.
In the boys’ group, the two Schinnerer brothers, Kase and Erik, played each other with the older brother Kase winning 6-3, 4-6, (10-1).
Sicknesses prevented competition in the girls’ group with Daria Gural being named the winner.
A longtime competitor at USCAK’s tournaments, Mykola Nalywayko, was awarded the Mary Dushnyck Sportsmanship Trophy as determined by the USCAK Tennis Committee. Mrs. Dushnyck was the past supreme vice-presidentess of the UNA and a devoted participant and supporter of this annual tennis tournament from 1956 until she could no longer play.
The closing ceremonies were held on Monday after the final matches were played. USCAK Tennis Director Sawchak thanked everyone for their participation, the sponsors for their support and USCAK Tennis Committee Member Ivan Durbak for his assistance. Trophies and stipends were awarded to the deserving winners and finalists.