| By Matthew Cohen
Photo credit: Matthew Cohen

It was a battle of two of Suffolk County’s top girl’s high school tennis teams on Monday afternoon, as the Commack Cougars faced off against the Half Hollow Hills East Thunderbirds in the Suffolk County Semifinals at Hills East.

The top-seeded Thunderbirds had defeated Commack in two regular season matches, but Commack was determined to change things on this day. The matches were hard fought on all the courts, but in the end, Hills East was able to edge Commack for the third time this season to earn a spot in the Suffolk County Conference I finals.

With the win, Hills East moves to 19-0-1 on the season and looks to remain undefeated Tuesday where they will face Floyd High School in the Suffolk County finals.

As has been the case most of the season, the Hills East singles players led the way and all won in straight sets over their opponents. In first singles, Senior Ester Chikavashvili of Hills East defeated Commack’s Amanda Innamorado 6-0, 6-1, and in second singles, player Vanessa Scott defeated Shira Polluck 6-0, 6-0. The deciding match would come down to third singles, where Gabrielle Raziel knocked off Emma Matz 7-5, 6-2 to clinch the win for Hills. “It feels good to be the deciding match. We have a lot of family and friends here supporting today, and I’m just happy to help my team” said Gabby Raziel on her victory. In fourth singles, Ariana Malik defeated Julia Kinali 7-5, 6-1.

With Commack down three players (two due to mono, and one away on a trip), first-year Commack Coach Jackie Clark tried a new strategy with her lineup. One aspect of the change saw two of Commack's regular singles players playing first doubles together.

“I wanted to try something different because Hills East’s singles are too strong for us to beat straight up,” said Clark.

The strategy seemed to be paying off, as senior Jackie Guidice and seventh Grader Kim Liao of Commack dropped the first set in a tie-break 6-7, but came back to win the second set 6-4 against Stephanie Chikavashvili & Divya Rao. The Hills East's duo was able to pull out the third set in a tie-breaker for the win.

In a second doubles match that required line judges to be present from the second set until finish, Commack’s Shelly Gupta & Alexa Corben defeated Melissa Achenbaum & Mary Kravitz 6-0, 3-6, 6-4. Commack also won third doubles, as Amanda Cane & Izzy Otrowsky defeated Joanna Wang & Brynn April in three sets 4-6, 7-6, 10-5.

When asked about the season, Coach Clark had this to say: “It’s been a great season. The girls worked tremendously hard to develop their games, they worked as a team and everybody came together to support one another. To get to this point and do so well, I’m really proud of the whole team and how the season went. It just goes to show you the future of the Commack Girls Tennis Team. It was a great experience and I look forward to another successful season next year.”

Hills East will face second-seeded Floyd for the 2014 Suffolk County Championship at 3:00 p.m. today at Smithtown East High School.

Credit all photos to Matthew Cohen










Matthew Cohen

<p>Matthew Cohen is director of business development for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached by phone at (516) 409-4444, ext. 306 or e-mail&nbsp;<a href="mailto:matt@usptennis.com">matt@usptennis.com</a>.</p>