| By Jacob Mishkin
Credit photo: Gabby Raziel

Looking for a trip to the Suffolk County Section XI Championship match, two of the top three teams in Suffolk County faced off at Half Hollow Hills East High School. The Hills East Thunderbirds looked to continue their winning ways against their rivals, the Commack High School Cougars. After beating Commack twice in the regular season, 5-2, and 4-3 respectively, Hills East defeated Commack once again on this day, as they won by an overall match score of 6-1. The match was tightly contested throughout however, and was closer than the final score would indicate.

For Commack, first singles player Andy Zhou was a bright spot, outlasting Hills East’s Travis Leaf 7-5, 6-1 to get Commack's lone win of the day. Losing to Leaf earlier in the season 6-1, 6-2, Zhou, a junior, got his revenge.

“I think my serve was a strength today, it was very good,” said Zhou. “I out-rallied him on my groundstrokes and that was the key. Last time, I couldn’t hang with him at the baseline, but this time I did.”

Hills East rebounded for wins at the other three singles spots. Second singles player Arnav Srivastava edged out Commack’s Nick Fox 6-1, 5-7,(11-9). At the four spot, Hills East's Brian Rhee won in two long sets, 6-4, 6-4. Abhinov Srivastava of Hills East won handily 6-2, 6-0 against Commack’s Peter Yu at third singles. Speaking with the Hills East freshman, Srivastava seemed confident and relaxed after his straight set victory. Srvistava said he was nervous going into the match, but the results proved otherwise.

“My main strength today was my serve, said Srivastava.” “I was able to get short returns and set up the point with my forehand.”

Though happy with his win, Srvastava knows he needs to improve in the next round.

“My footwork is not where it should be,” said Srivastava.

The doubles matches were also tight as many of them went down to the wire. Ross Reiffman & Tyler London (Hills East) defeated Connor Burke & Brandon Kramer (Commack) 6-1, 6-2 at first doubles. Hills East’s number two doubles duo of Eric Handelman & Adam Wilck won 6-4, 6-3 as only a couple breaks of serve proved to be the difference.

For Hills East, the number three doubles pair of Sahil Varma & Justin Dubler, the road to victory was up and down as they squeaked out the win 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 over Commack’s Steven Slepian & Gabe Green.

“I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished. They worked hard on the off season and they worked hard during the season,” said Hills East Head Coach Tom Depelteau. “The doubles teams really came together, played well, supported each other, and achieved a good deal more than what I had expected at the beginning of the year.”

After the match was decided, Commack Coach Shane Helfner spoke about the result. Understandably disappointed, Helfner showed nothing but respect and praise for the Hills East Program.

“You got to give credit to the other team,” said Helfner. “Hills East played really well today, sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other team.”

Helfner also credited his seniors. “My senior class this year was really special, I had a lot of them for three, four and even five years,” said Helfner. “It was a bittersweet ending, I would have given anything for them to have this, they have contributed a lot to this program.”

Half Hollow Hills East, the number two seed, will look to build on its 6-1 victory as they travel a mile down the road to face crosstown rival, Half Hollow Hills West. Hills West, the number one overall seed and also undefeated this season, defeated Ward Melville Friday and will host the Suffolk County Conference I Championship match.

“I’m not surprised we’re playing them. They are a very good team,” said Depelteau of his championship opponent. “I think we’re the only team in the County that can beat them.”

Below are the complete results from Commack vs. Half Hollow Hills East’s Suffolk County Semifinal Match:

►Andy Zhou (Commack) defeated Travis Leaf (Hills East) 7-5, 6-1

►Arnav Srivastava (Hills East) defeated Nick Fox (Commack) 6-1, 5-7,11-9

►Abhinav Srivastava (Hills East) defeated Peter Yu (Commack) 6-2, 6-0

►Brian Rhee (Hills East) defeated Sol Yoon (Commack) 6-4, 6-4

►Ross Reiffman & Tyler London (Hills East) defeated Connor Burke & Brandon Kramer (Commack) 6-1, 6-2

►Eric Handelman & Adam Wilck (Hills East) defeated Jason Gerber & Connor Wright (Commack) 6-4, 6-3

►Sahil Varma & Justin Dubler (Hills East) defeated Steven Slepian & Gabe Green (Commack) 2-6, 6-1, 6-2

Credit photos to Gabby & Julia Raziel





Jacob Mishkin

<p>Jacob Mishkin is an intern with Long Island Tennis Magazine. The Woodbury, N.Y. native is currently a junior at St. Bonaventure University where he plays for the Men&#39;s Tennis Team.&nbsp;</p>