On Tuesday, 2011 Nassau County Champion Syosset High School and 2011 Suffolk County Champion Half Hollow Hills East (HHHE) High School were supposed to play to determine the winner of the 2011 Long Island Championship. That day ended with HHHE Coach Tom Depelteau putting his team back on a bus instead of playing the match after heated exchanges with Syosset Coach Larry Levane, Nassau County Girls High School Coordinator Shai Fisher and parents.
Yesterday, hoping that cooler heads would prevail, the coaches and coordinators from numerous sections tried to re-schedule the match, but to no avail. It was then formally announced that HHHE had forfeited the match and that Syosset had been declared the Long Island Champion for the third straight year.
"The rule over the last seven years was that if you play in Nassau, you follow Nassau rules, which is three singles and four doubles 'in strength order,'" said Fisher. "In Suffolk, its four singles and three doubles with a 'flexibility' lineup which allows just a little more room to maneuver your lineup. Since Nassau was hosting this year's final, we were following Nassau rules. The HHHE coach decided not to follow those rules."
When the coaches exchanged lineups, it became clear that HHHE took their top three singles players from throughout the season and put them in the top two doubles positions, moved their top two doubles teams down to third and fourth doubles, then took their regular third doubles team and put them at first and second singles.
"According to Nassau rules, this was a blatant stacking of a lineup which was an illegal lineup due to not following Nassau rules of strength order," said Fisher.
After not being able to reach an agreement on playing the match, the forfeiture was decided on Wednesday afternoon by Sectional Coordinators and the heads of Nassau/Suffolk BOCES.
Both teams earned their County Championship on the court and that is exactly where this Championship should've been determined. It is absolutely ridiculous to have what was a great girls high school tennis season end in this manner. For both teams involved and all high school tennis players, what example does that show to the girls? How do the seniors on either team feel looking back at this as their final memory of high school tennis? Where does this leave the Long Island Championship format moving forward?
If there were rules in place, which we have been told there were, they simply should've been followed. Similar to Major League Baseball where the American League plays with a designated hitter (DH) and the National League doesn't, it would seem simple that the host team determines the rules of play.
Also, why would any competitive athlete want to be put into "an easier match" rather than face the competition of playing the best?
The argument of how this all ended up coming to fruition will certainly continue for some time, but for the purposes of this particular article, it will end here so we can focus on the key components. Long Island Tennis Magazine would like to congratulate the girls of HHHE on a Suffolk Title and a tremendous season. For the girls of Syosset High School, winning three straight Nassau County and Long Island Championships is an amazing feat. The girls on both teams should be very proud of their efforts on-the-court, and no one should be proud of the events that took place off-the-court.