She’s a Maccabee
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She’s a Maccabee

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Galila Shapiro takes her tennis and her commitment to the Maccabees very seriously. She is a junior at Yeshiva University and majors in biology at Stern College.

You will never see this NCAA Division III tennis player on the court in a miniskirt and tank top.

Galila Shapiro of Englewood, a junior at Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University, wears the regulation sleeved top and longish shorts – minus the optional knee-length skirt – of the Maccabee women’s tennis team.

Though YU’s reputation is based more on learning than on lobbing, Maccabee sports teams at the university have a long tradition. Varsity intercollegiate athletics are available for male undergrads in baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and wrestling; and for women in basketball, cross country, fencing, soccer, tennis, and volleyball, with softball to be added next year.

The university has just released a promotional video, “I Am A Maccabee,” featuring student athletes including Ms. Shapiro.

“I consider myself to be a shy person and I was hesitant to be in the video,” Ms. Shapiro said. “But we don’t get any outside donations and we’re not in the Final Four, so all our support is going to come from the YU alumni and Jewish community base, and I felt it was important to help out in whatever way I could to target that community. And I was proud to be chosen as a good representative of the Maccabees. I work hard to live up to that.”

The 21-year-old biology major is the fourth of six children of Saadia and Marla Shapiro. The family moved to Englewood from Brooklyn in time for her to begin sixth grade at the Moriah School of Englewood. She went on to the Frisch School in Paramus.

“I played tennis as far back as I can remember, mostly with my siblings in the summers, and I took lessons in middle school,” Ms. Shapiro said. One summer, she and her younger brother Liam played every day, and a Haitian tennis pro gave her free lessons with the promise that she would make the high school team. She did, although the Frisch tennis team didn’t play many matches during the years she was there.

When she got to Stern College, she got serious about the sport. A commitment to college athletics entails many hours of practices and games. The 12 female Macs practice two hours a night in the main fall season, except the two nights per week when they have matches with other teams in the Skyline Conference, “a quite competitive Division III conference” that includes CUNY schools, John Jay, Lehman, Sarah Lawrence, Mount Saint Mary, St. Joseph’s, Pratt Institute, College of New Rochelle, Western Connecticut State, and several other colleges.

“In the spring season it’s less intense – one match per week – but they’re more exhibition-type matches not in our conference. That keeps us in practice and good shape, and it’s more fun,” Ms. Shapiro said.

But YU athletes must balance their sports schedule with a dual course load. And transportation takes time as well, because the home court is in Edgewater – not so far for the male players coming from Washington Heights, but much farther for the women coming from Stern’s midtown campus at Lexington and 34th Street.

“Because we’re an Orthodox institution, we have to squeeze all our practices and matches into a shorter time since the fall season overlaps with our High Holiday break,” Ms. Shapiro added. “We have to work doubly hard to stay competitive.”

Off-season, the 12 teammates get together individually on Englewood or Teaneck courts. “In August, we go away to a pre-season camp in upstate New York for five days with some of the other athletic teams,” Ms. Shapiro said. “We practice all day, every day, for five days a week and do strength training and other types of activities.”

In 2013, Ms. Shapiro was named to Skyline’s Fall Sportsmanship Team, along with five other YU students.

“We have one of the best sportsmanship records out of all the teams, and we always get sportsmanship awards at the end of the year,” she noted.

“I think we have been brought up in an environment where we’re taught to respect others and be honest despite being in a competition. We don’t have line judges, so it’s up to us to make calls, and people notice when you’re honest about whether a ball was in or out. We’re toward the bottom in terms of rankings for wins, and sometimes it’s tough for us to be so courteous and respectful, but we’re all raised that way.”

Ms. Shapiro aspires to be a physician. In addition to classes and the tennis team, she works at United Hatzalah’s New York office and interns as a research assistant at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt hospitals. “In school, I’m vice president of the Red Cross Club,” she said. “I’m heavily scheduled, but I make it work.”

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