Had it not been for the East Hampton Indoor Tennis Club’s managing partner, Scott Rubenstein, Amy Naula might not have won a partial athletic scholarship to play tennis at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., this fall.
She began hitting balls with her father, Ramon, at East Hampton Town’s Youth Park when she was “around 11 or 12” and quickly came to the attention of the park’s manager, George Kusanovic, who, in turn, told Rubenstein about her.
“That’s how I got a scholarship to play in the Junior Davis Cup program that Scott ran at the Racquet Club of East Hampton,” Naula said during a conversation the other day at The Star.
“There were 20 to 25 of us — most of the kids were from the city. That program was very helpful. When I was 15 or 16 Scott talked to my dad about doing U.S.T.A. tournaments, and when my dad, who’s done so much for me, asked if I wanted to do them, I said, ‘Yeah, of course I do.’ “
“Amy’s worked very hard on her game,” her East Hampton High School coach, Jim Nicoletti, said later in the week. “Not only at school — she was our number one this year — but also on her own. Come to think of it, that whole group I had recently — Amy, my daughter Casey, Bev Keyes, and Molly Nolan — are playing, or, as in Amy’s case, will play, tennis in college. Molly’s at Skidmore, Casey’s playing at William Smith, and Bev is at Gettysburg.”
Moreover, Naula, as is the case with Scott’s daughter Rebecca, Bev Keyes, Casey Nicoletti, and Chelsea Larsen, is working behind the desk at E.H.I.T. this summer — it’s her third year there — and hits with members when the need arises.
“It’s hectic — it’s always busy there — but I love it,” Naula said.
These young women, who have been able to play at the club the year round — indoors from the fall through the spring — also have been taking high-performance clinics from Alfredo Barreto and Brian Rubenstein on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Matt Rubenstein, a former high school all-American, had been giving those clinics too, but he’s sidelined at the moment with a broken ankle.
“I started playing with Matt at the time I began going to all those U.S.T.A. tournaments,” Naula said. “He helped me so much — he helped me develop my game.”
Apparently so, for a year and a half ago Naula was the number-one ranked 16-and-under player on Long Island. “My dad has always worked very hard, but he’s always found the time to bring me to the tournaments. He always came to my matches — he’s been so supportive all the time.”
Naula, her father, her mother, Olga, and younger brother, Jorge, an up-and-coming soccer player at the East Hampton Middle School, visited Eckerd in February. She was welcomed by the coach, Erin Koenig, who had been tracking her progress, and she practiced with the team and fell in love with the school.
She’s been told she’ll play right off the bat, and to prepare, Naula has been following a summer regimen that includes “running, lifting, ab work, footwork . . . I definitely need to improve my footwork . . . and a lot of tennis.”
An A student at East Hampton High — “education was always first with my dad” — she received a $6,000 scholarship from the Ladies Village Improvement Society and two book scholarships as well. In her sophomore and junior years she was the receptionist — a bilingual one — for Project MOST at the John M. Marshall Elementary School. More recently, she’s worked with Hampton Kids, which offers drop-in child care in a building across from East Hampton Indoor’s indoor courts.
When asked what had been her best win in her senior year, Naula did not hesitate. “It was in the county tournament. I was playing a girl who everybody knows is difficult. You have to use a line judge when you play her. She had beaten me in a tournament the winter before. We had a line judge then, too. But this time I came back and beat her in a three-setter. That was the best feeling! I won’t forget that match,” she said as she excused herself to go work out at the high school track with her uncle, Romulo Tubatan.