The competition for supremacy in League VII boys tennis should be fierce this year, with several teams capable of finding themselves at the top on the final day of the regular season.
The Ross School, which has won four straight League VII titles, is hoping to extend that streak to five, and has several talented players back on its roster. But perennial powerhouse Westhampton Beach always gives the Cosmos a run for their money, while William Floyd has emerged as a legitimate contender in boys and girls tennis in the past two seasons. Meanwhile, East Hampton has a bulk of its team returning and is a dangerous team as well. Southampton lost its best player in program history, Jeremy Dubin, to graduation, along with two other top singles players, but has young talent, while Eastport South Manor has proven in recent years that it’s not a team that should be overlooked. Shoreham/Wading River, the other team in the league, has one of the top players around in Chris Kuhnle.
The Hurricanes got a boost this year with the return of junior Kevin Cino, who was a member of the varsity team as a freshman, but spent his sophomore year at a tennis academy in Florida. His return gives the Hurricanes two very talented singles players, along with junior Cooper Lacetera, who finished fifth in the state as part of a doubles team with J.D. Sipala, who graduated. Head coach John Czartosieski said that right now, the top singles spot is Lacetera’s to lose, but that the two will play numerous challenge matches throughout the year, which should keep them both sharp. Cino wasn’t in the lineup in Westhampton Beach’s season opener on Monday, when it beat Bayport/Blue Point, 5-2, in a non-league match, because he didn’t have enough practices yet to compete. But the team will only be stronger when he’s on the court.
Many other returning players will help make Westhampton Beach a well-rounded team. Juniors Zach Ellenhorn and Beecher Halsey give the Canes strong players at third and fourth singles, while senior Nisarg Dabhi should see time at third and fourth singles as well. Junior Brian Schwartz is another strong returning player who should do well at third and fourth singles, primarily.
In doubles, both Lacetera and Cino could see time at first doubles on occasion, while junior Matt Kantor, Dabhi, seniors Sam Kapust and Paaras Mehta, eighth-grader Riley Smith and freshman Raj Ghayalod will also play there as well.
Westhampton Beach lost four players to graduation, including Sipala, Reid Paoletta, Sheel Patel and Mike Polan, but Czartosieski is confident with the group that remains, primarily because he says they collectively did a nice job of keeping their tennis skills sharp during the offseason. Czartosieski said he expects Floyd to give his team its toughest matches, and said he was unsure what to expect from Ross. Regardless, he feels good about his team’s chances.
“I think we have a really good shot at winning the league title,” he said.
The Canes got off on the right foot in the win over Bayport. Lacetera and Ellenhorn won easily at first and second singles, while Schwartz won at fourth as well. Kantor and Dabhi teamed up for a win at first doubles, and Smith and Ghayalod won in three sets at third doubles.
The Mariners have undoubtedly the biggest shoes to fill of any team in Suffolk County after the loss of defending county champion and All-State player Jeremy Dubin to graduation. Dubin, who finished fifth in the state last year, is now playing at a tennis academy in Spain. As if losing him wasn’t bad enough, the Mariners also lost their next two top singles players, Tommy Gallo and Matias Ruiz. Ruiz is now playing soccer at C.W. Post University.
Senior Dylan Blue is back and will be a strong player for Southampton, while fellow senior Alex Grun figures to be the top singles player on the squad. Senior Connor Kembock and sophomore William Reddick are back as well and will take on bigger roles this year. The rest of the Mariners squad is young, particularly because the program currently does not have a junior varsity. Ben Perreira is another returning senior, and Ivan VanHussell is a senior as well, but after them, head coach Juni Wingfield will need to rely on youngsters to fill out the roster. Juniors Liam McMahon and Harry Carter, sophomores Eryk Bartolon, Shane Terry, Christian Oliveros and Eric Kropiwnicka and freshmen Keeling Pilaro and Tristan Hughes and Kenneth Molino will fill out the team.
Wingfield said that he’ll often play his young players in the singles lineup, letting them “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’,” one of his favorite catchphrases to describe the learning curve for younger players. He said he’d like to see Grun, Kembock, Perreira, Carter, Blue and Reddick play half their matches in doubles, so that they can enter the postseason tournaments as doubles teams, which he said gives them the best chance of advancing.
Southampton opened the regular season on Monday as well, with a 7-0 loss to Smithtown East in a non-league match.
The Cosmos have plenty of strong players returning who will try to lead the program to its fifth-straight league title. The Cosmos lost an All-State player in Felipe Reis, but he was the only significant departure. Seniors Louis Caiola, Jack Brinkley-Cook, and Ben Okin, sophomore Harrison Rowen, and eighth-graders Michael Petersen and Jonas Linnman are returning to the varsity and should challenge for the top spots in the lineup, while Brinkley-Cook and Caiola should be a formidable doubles team. Ross was 11-1 last year, with its only regular season loss coming against Southampton.
The Bonackers finished below .500 last season, but still made the county team playoffs, and head coach Michelle Kennedy said this year’s team wants to get back there and improve upon its record. East Hampton lost just one starter, Dan Ruggiero, to graduation. Sophomore Dan Okin and senior Collin Kavanaugh return to the team and will probably team up as a strong doubles team in the postseason. Senior Andrew Dixon and Peter Davis could also make a strong second doubles team while Matt Silich and Reese Donaldson, both seniors, should make a nice third doubles team. Seniors Juan Agudelo, Elias VanSilich, Keith Schad and junior Jordan Modek will also battle for time at third doubles. In singles, senior Andrew Davis and sophomores Julian MacGurn, Nicki Neubert and Brady Yusko—who came to the team after he played baseball last year—should be the top players.