- As the top seed in the singles draw at the Division IV boys tennis tournament, Westhampton Beach's top player, Richard Sipala, fully expected to take home top honors. He had gone unbeaten in the League VII regular season, drew the top seed and thus supposedly the easiest path to the championship.
The sweet-swinging sophomore found that path to be perilous yet he danced out of the way of trouble with smooth groundstrokes and a strong mental game. Sipala rolled through to the final and fended off Southampton's Jeremy Dubin in three sets, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, to win the singles title. Sipala, along with doubles champions Greg Kandell and Eric Antunovich, are the headliners for a 10-player group from the East End - four singles players and three doubles tandems - who will make the trip to Suffolk County Community College
in Selden on Saturday for the county championships. Early-round play begins at 9 a.m.; the singles and doubles champions won't be determined until Monday. The top three from each bracket will qualify for the New York state championships, which will be held at the United States Tennis Association Complex in Flushing from May 28-30.
Greg Kandell (above) and Eric Antunovich didn't even give up a set in winning the Division IV doubles title.
The victory wasn't nearly as easy as the players' first meeting this season, a 6-0, 6-1 Sipala rout. This time, Dubin gutted out a win in the first set and stood at 4-4 in the second before Sipala evened the match at a set apiece. Sipala eventually began to exhibit his great endurance and captured the decisive third set, 6-3. Sipala stayed undefeated on the year in three-set matches, scoring five wins over opposing No. 1s.
"I guess I just loosened up after the first set," Sipala said. "I've gotten off to a bad start in previous matches so I gained a little confidence as the match went on."
John Czartosieski lauded the performance put on by Dubin, saying he looked "completely different" from the player that Sipala defeated. Although Sipala was undefeated against League VII opponents during the regular season, he nevertheless had to
"He had a really superb league season and really needed to go out there and execute and get the job done," Czartosieski said. "That's just what he did. He still had to prove that he was the player to beat."
At last year's counties, Sipala was upended in the second round. He indicated that he feels as though he's the fourth-best player in the county and will be looking to at least climb up to third to qualify for states. "I'm just going to go for the third place spot," said the Hurricane sophomore. "That's my goal. I want to qualify for states. That would be great."
Westhampton's Eric Antunovich looks to put away a volley during his match against a Longwood pair in the doubles semifinals.
Westhampton will send two doubles teams to counties with the same aspirations. Much like the girls did in the fall, the boys placed two teams in the Division IV finals to duke it out for the championship. Greg Kandell and Eric Antunovich, who teamed up to finish second at last year's division championships, did one better this time, out-dueling teammates Christian LaDu and Mike Hammond by a 6-2, 6-3 count.
Kandell and Antunovich went 8 for 8 in sets all told, never surrendering more than four points in a set. They started by coasting past Riverhead's Rich Bliss
and Devon Brewer love and love, defeated the Mattituck pairing of Joe Pfaff and Connor Davis 6-2, 6-4 and then bowled over Longwood's Kevin Schneider and Matt Benjamin in the semifinals 6-3, 6-3.
"What makes them so good is they have a lot of experience in doubles now," Czartosieski said. "I think they know each other's game well enough so they can cover each other's weaknesses. They help each other out when the other guy isn't playing up to his potential and are doing a lot better setting each other up at the net for the putaways."
LaDu and Hammond, who were seeded third, were as dominant in reach the final. They beat Eastport-South Manor's Dan Elitharp and Chris Anderson 6-1, 7-5 as well as sixth-seeded Matt Miller and Fred Havemyer of Southampton 6-1, 6-2 to set up a semifinal matchup against Dylan Sanicola and Jona Sanabria. The Westhampton duo's best performance came then as they rolled to a 6-1, 6-3 triumph to book their finals appearance.
Also on the singles side, Dylan Jurow and Christian Thienel each won a pair of matches before bowing out in the quarters. Jurow dominated Luke Scarpulla of East Hampton (6-3, 6-0) and ESM's Kevin Peters (6-0, 6-2) before losing to Ross' Lee. Thienel's surge was stopped by Dubin but not before he toppled East Hampton's Jimmy Strauss 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 and Vinnie Urwand from Mattituck 6-2, 6-4.
Mariners senior Jack Keenan will make his second appearance at the county tournament after taking fourth in Division IV.
Southampton Head Coach Juni Wingfield was more than pleased with the efforts of his whole team and particularly his top two singles players. Both Dubin and senior Jack Keenan reached Saturday's county tournament, with Keenan losing a tough three-set match to Ross' Henry Lee in the singles third-place match.
Dubin played some of his best tennis of the season. The Mariner freshman didn't so much as lose a game until the quarterfinals, rolling into the semis with straight set wins over Riverhead's John Rios (6-0, 6-0), Southold's Billy McDonald (6-0, 6-0) and finally Christian Thienel (6-4, 6-4), Westhampton's No. 2 singles player.
Dubin continued his solid play in the semis against Ross' Henry Lee, who have grown up playing together as their parents were college teammates at Colgate University and live locally. Dubin jumped on Lee early and never let him seize momentum, scoring a 6-3, 6-0 victory to advance to the final. Against Sipala, Dubin was two games away from a monumental win but couldn't quite close the deal.
Wingfield said he was "kicking himself" afterward for what he felt was a coaching mistake. "Sometimes you get so impressed with the level of tennis that you forget it's a 13-year-old's body and he should take a 10-minute break," Wingfield said. "It's like with prizefighters - you ask them how they're feeling, are you sagging, and they say, 'I'm great, I'm ready to go.' I think the finish line was farther than he really thought. Even as a former athlete, to recover, refocus, re-establish and reaffirm, you can do all that if you get 10 minutes. He had momentum and wanted to keep it going. He played a hell of a match."
It's a return trip for Keenan, who last year won his first match before bowing to the bracket's top seed.
Wingfield said that Keenan's past success against Lee might have negatively affected his play. "He'd beaten him a number of times in the past so I think he felt that sometime she can turn it on and off against him," Wingfield said. "Jack got caught where momentum changed uniforms. Matches like that Henry Lee might not have won in the first half of the season but he too has learned if he could even it up, it was anybody's game."
East Hampton's Jona Sanabria belts a forehand off of his opponent's serve.
Keenan, who was seeded fourth out of 32 players in the draw, cruised through his first three matches, beating Rocky Point's Mike Lopez 6-0, 6-0, Ross' Ian Combemale
6-0, 6-4 and then fifth seeded Eric Sumanaru of Longwood 6-1, 6-2. He was knocked off by Sipala of Westhampton in the semifinals.
"An incredible effort from those two young men certainly brought tennis to one of its finest hours in our program," Wingfield said. "To have two out of four kids in final four, that's big. They competed real well and won the admiration of their coaches and of their peers. They played hard, they played clean and they played honest and if you do that, you come away with a quality loss at worst."
The only other Mariner on the singles side was Tommy Gallo, who was beaten by Ross' Lee in straight sets in round one. In the doubles bracket, Fred Havemyer and Matt Miller reached the quarterfinals by beating Shoreham-Wading River's Ryan Buckley and Justin Ceruti 6-2, 6-3. They were ousted there by the eventual runners-up, LaDu and Hammond, 6-2, 6-1.
East Hampton Schools Send Three To Counties
Ross sophomore Henry Lee won three matches before losing to Southampton's Jeremy Dubin in the semifinals. Lee did bounce back to beat Dubin's teammate, Jack Keenan, in the third place match.
The Ross School has had a remarkable season on the courts and it added another notch to its belt when sophomore Henry Lee, the team's top singles player all season long, became the first boys player in school history to qualify for the county tournament.
The second-seeded Lee gave his opposition a total of three games over his first two matches, a 6-1, 6-1 win over Southampton's Tommy Gallo and a 6-1, 6-0 victory over William Floyd's Ray Kahn. In the quarterfinals, Lee was able to knock off Dylan Jurow of East Hampton in straight sets as well, winning 6-2, 6-3. He was finally topped in the semis by Southampton's Dubin but bounced back to beat another Mariner, Jack Keenan, in the third-place match.
"You always learn from your losses and find out some things you can work on," Ravens Head Coach Vinicius Carmo said. "I think it's good for the kids to be able to play during the winter for the first time. They can train through the fall and the winter and next year when they get to spring they'll be ready to play."
Ross had three players in the singles draw and two went as far as the quarterfinals. The Ravens' No. 2, Ken Pinillos won a pair of matches on Friday to advance to Saturday's action. First he disposed of East Hampton's Brian Fink 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 and then upended Adrian Summerlin of Riverhead 7-5, 6-1. His run came to an end at the hands of Sipala 6-1, 6-2. Ian Combemale beat SWR's Brian Cuzzo with ease in round one before being bounced by Keenan.
No Raven party left empty-handed, including in doubles. Marius Grant and Mata McCaskill outlasted Longwood's John Greenbaum and Justin Rodriguez 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).
Dylan Sanicola of East Hampton chases down a shot along the sideline and drops it back over the net.
For the Bonackers, Dylan Sanicola and Jona Sanabria will try to put their best foot forward on Saturday after a fine run in the Division IV tournament. Seeded second out of 26 teams to throw their names in the hat, the Bonac duo made quick work of Longwood's Kevin Schneider and Matt Benjamin in the third place match, winning 6-0, 6-3 on Monday.
Win or lose, they were booked for the counties, which Sanicola attended last year with doubles partner Jon Jamet. Still, Sanicola and Sanabria enter with some momentum from a win in their final match. Before being defeated by LaDu and Hammond in straight sets, East Hampton's top team battled to a pair of victories. First it beat Ross' Grant and McCaskill 7-5 6-3; after a night's sleep, they came back to Shoreham and were able to hold off ESM's Mike Biggs and Nick Prisco 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.
"I'm thrilled with my kids," Bonac Head Coach Claude Beudert said. "When you think that we play Sachem East, Ward Melville, Westhampton, you're at another echelon. I'm glad my kids competed with them. For Dylan, it's his second time to counties. He's another kid who's made great progress and I'm glad he has the chance to compete at that level again."
Jimmy Strauss, Brian Fink and Luke Scarpulla all made appearances on the singles side but were knocked out in the first round Friday. The same fate occurred for doubles team David Rubenstein and Dan Horwith. All of their opponents went on to compete in the quarterfinals.