Yesterday's Long Island High School Girls Tennis Championship match between the Nassau County Champion Syosset and Suffolk County Champion Half Hollow Hills East was supposed to be a battle between the two best teams on the Island. It was supposed to be the fitting end to a long season of hard work by the players who earned the right to play in this match. It was supposed to be the final high school match for the many seniors on both teams. It was supposed to be about the kids.
However, yesterday's scheduled match between Syosset and HHHE never got started and the controversy has overshadowed the accolades that the girls on both great teams should be recognized for.
Syosset was coming in to the match undefeated as the back-to-back Long Island Champions. They were probably considered the favorite. When the teams arrived at the neutral site of Cold Spring Harbor High School, it was learned that HHHE coach Tom Depelteau wanted to rearrange the lineup they have used all season in an effort to gain a competitive advantage in competing against the favored Syosset team. His decision was to take his regular singles players and move them to doubles and then take his regular doubles players and move some of them to singles.
This move was not accepted by the Syosset team, as they deemed it poor sportsmanship to do what HHHE was attempting. They wanted to play the match straight-up, best against best, and allow the girls to determine the match on the court in their true positions.
With Nassau County being the host of this year's Long Island Championship match (Suffolk hosted last year's finals), they felt they were entitled to play the matchup under Nassau County home rules, which, in broad strokes, does not allow for distinct lineup changes that move the girls significantly from the positions they have played at all season. The interpretation of the rule dictating how teams construct their lineups could not be agreed upon. HHHE Coach Depelteau then instructed his team to get back on the bus and HHHE returned to their school without playing the match.
According to Nassau County Girls High School Coordinator Shai Fisher, "As of right now, it's a forfeit, but Syosset doesn't want to win that way and they are trying to make it happen Thursday [Nov. 2nd] at CSH at 2:30 p.m. To this point, we don't know if this will be agreed upon."
As far as his overall reaction to yesterday's events, Fisher said, "Bottom line, the Half Hollow Hills East coach did not want to play according to Nassau's home rules and left. I just feel bad for all the girls on both teams—they worked very hard to get to this point, and I hope they all get the opportunity to settle it on the court in a fair and equal manner."
After the great girls season we have had on Long Island in both Nassau and Suffolk County, it would certainly be a shame if this is how it ended and if the girls (especially the seniors) didn't get to play what would be the final match of their high school careers. We at Long Island Tennis Magazine look forward to an afternoon match tomorrow (Nov. 3rd) at Cold Spring Harbor High School, but as of this posting, it has yet to be determined.