| By Brian Coleman

Nassau County Boys High School preview
Mullins leads Cold Spring Harbor’s County Championship hopes
Cold Spring Harbor has been one of the most, if not the most, dominant program in Nassau County over the last decade, so dropping the County Championship to Syosset last year was unexpected.

The Seahawks hope to return to the county title match this year, and if they are to do it, it will be on the back of senior Sean Mullins.

Mullins, who trains out of Sportime Syosset, had a fantastic individual campaign for Cold Spring Harbor last spring. He paired up with Patrick Hannity and the two reached the Nassau County Doubles Finals and eventually the New York State Doubles Finals.

“That was a great experience,” Mullins said of playing in the state tournament. “I had never been to States before. We played against some really good kids and saw different styles that we had to work through. I was able to take a lot away from that experience … getting better at strategy and figuring out things on the court without coaches.”

Learning how to play smarter and more strategically was something Mullins wanted to improve on heading into this season.

“The main thing I wanted to work on was just being smarter as a player,” said Mullins. “I wanted to get tactically better, not taking points for granted and giving them away. It wasn’t something specific like a forehand or a serve, just learning to play smarter.”

Mullins has all the physical tools: A big serve, clean forehand and shows good movement at the baseline.

“At 6’4”, Sean has one of the most powerful games I’ve seen from a kid his age,” said Mullins’ Sportime Coach Austen Childs. “He has the potential to hit anyone off the court with his huge lefty serve and deadly forehand.”

Mullins says being a lefty can work out to his benefit at times.

“It’s definitely an advantage,” said Mullins. “When I play righties, their regular style of play of hitting cross-court shots to get to a backhand doesn’t really work because that is my forehand side. So, I am able to force them to make some adjustments.”

Being brought up in a culture of winning has been huge in Mullins’ development. He joined the varsity team in the eighth grade right in the middle of Cold Spring Harbor’s dominance in Nassau County, playing on teams that included his older brother Connor on the roster.

“Those were some of my favorite seasons in eighth and ninth grade. To play with players like Josh Levine and others, seeing how they prepared and played was great,” recalls Mullins. “I remember one time in ninth grade in a match against Syosset, the score was 3-3, and I was playing in the deciding match. I ended up losing and it was our first loss in a while, so I was really upset and thought I let the team down. But those guys really helped me through it. Moments like that have helped me become a leader heading into my senior year.”

Mullins will carry those leadership traits into this spring season, as he and his Cold Spring Harbor teammates seek to reclaim the Nassau County championship.

“I’ve known Sean since he was 11, and I have seen his development both on and off the court,” said Cold Spring Harbor Head Coach Edwin Ramirez. “I have no doubt that he is the right person to lead us this year.”

“I think we can win Counties, and our goal is to take back the championship from Syosset,” Mullins added. “There are a lot of good players and teams out there, but I think we can have a great season.”


Other Nassau County players to watch …
Yuval Solomon ♦ Plainview JFK
Yuval Solomon (pictured right) returns for his junior year as the defending Nassau County Singles Champion. He reached the finals of the New York State tournament before falling to defending champion Matt Gamble. Solomon is one of the best players in the state and he will seek to defend his County Title, and punch his ticket for a return to the state finals.

Keegan Morris ♦ Sewanhaka
Just a sophomore last year, Keegan Morris enjoyed a fantastic season that saw him reach the Nassau County Finals. The junior should be a threat once again in Nassau County, as he hopes to break through later in the season at the state tournament.

Brady Berman ♦ Jericho
Brady Berman finished third in the county tournament last year as a junior. He won his first round matchup at the state tournament before losing to fellow Long Islander Chris Kuhnle of Shoreham-Wading River and is due for a big senior campaign.

Alan Delman ♦ Great Neck North
Alan Delman reached the state tournament in doubles a season ago, but will play first singles in his senior year, as he hopes to lead Great Neck North deep into the county tournament.


Teams to watch in Nassau County …

Syosset (pictured right) ended the seven-year reign of Cold Spring Harbor as Nassau County Champions in a thrilling final last year. The Braves return this year as defending Nassau County Champions, and despite graduating five seniors from that team, players like Spencer Lowitt will look to lead them to another county title.

Cold Spring Harbor
Cold Spring Harbor had their string of Nassau County Championships snapped by Syosset last year, so the Seahawks will be out to take back the title. CSH returns top singles player Sean Mullins and has a deep roster that should make it a threat in Conference I once again.

Port Washington
Port Washington had a great 2015 season, going 11-3 and reaching the Nassau County finals before falling to eventual champions Syosset. The Vikings graduated just one starter from a year ago, and led by George Kaslow and brothers Max and Austin Egna, Port Washington will be a contender in 2016.

Great Neck North
Great Neck North reached the Nassau County quarterfinals last season and is poised to make a deeper run in 2016. The Blazers have made steady improvements in the last couple of seasons, and led by top singles player Alan Delman, hopes to build on last year’s success.

Great Neck South
The strength of the Rebels will be its depth. The singles play will be led by Jack Briamonte, who is returning from an injury suffered last season, as well as Landon Phillips. The team of Brian Klig & Eric Rofe are also returning to anchor the team at doubles, making Great Neck South a viable contender.


Nassau County Boys Tennis key dates for 2016 …
Monday, April 4: Matches begin

Saturday-Sunday, May 14-15: Nassau County Individual Tournament at Oceanside High School

Monday, May 16: Nassau County Team Playoffs Begin

Thursday-Saturday, June 2-4: 2016 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center


Suffolk County Boys High School preview
SWR’s Kuhnle seeks to defend Suffolk County Title
Shoreham-Wading River’s Chris Kuhnle (pictured right) had a fantastic 2015 spring season, finishing with a 27-2 record, a Suffolk County singles championship and a fourth-place finish at the New York State tournament, a huge jump from his sophomore year.

“I really started working on my physical fitness and I grew a lot,” Kuhnle said on his improvements last year. “I was working with trainers that really helped me with my game. I got into great shape and was able to last longer in matches.”

Kuhnle lost just two matches all season last year, with those two losses coming towards the end of the state tournament, and hopes to build on his success in his senior campaign.

Over the past year, Kuhnle, who doesn’t train out of a specific club, worked and hit with various college players from the area, including collegiate players from Stony Brook, NYIT and ASA, which he says has helped his game develop.

“I don’t play at a club, I moved around a lot and some clubs are 40 minutes to an hour away, so I started hitting with college players from around Long Island,” said Kuhnle. “When I started doing that I could really see improvement. It was a great experience playing with high-level players with different styles and it really helped push my game to the next level.”

Kuhnle, who prides himself on his versatility, and his ability to use different styles depending on the situation, his opponent or how he is feeling at the time.

“I don’t have a single style. I’m not a serve and volleyer or a baseline-type player. I try to incorporate everything,” he said. “I’m constantly changing things up from match to match. I can serve and volley if I need to, other days I’m feeling great and can use a big forehand. So I try and adapt my game to whatever player I’m playing on that particular day.”

Kuhnle hopes his improvement, as well as the continued improvement of his Shoreham-Wading River team will be on display this season. The Wildcats went from two wins in 2013, to five wins in 2014, and last season went 8-8, showing evidence of the program’s steady improvement. If that trend continues, Shoreham-Wading River could be a threat later this season in the Suffolk County playoffs.

“I have seen Chris mature as a student-athlete both on and off the court. I believe that the time that he devotes to improving his game as well as his conditioning program and natural athletic ability separate him from his competitors,” said Shoreham-Wading River Head Coach Debbi Lutjen. “Chris has set the bar high for any Shoreham-Wading River tennis player who will follow him. His work ethic has shown his teammates what it takes to excel at the county and state level. I believe that Chris will continue to grow as a student-athlete and use his talent to accomplish his goals.”

Shoreham-Wading River opens up its season on the road at Ward Melville.


Other Suffolk County players to watch …
Aziz Rashizada ♦ 
Half Hollow Hills West
The senior returns in the top singles spot for the defending county champions Half Hollow Hills West.

Cannon Kingsley ♦ Northport
Cannon Kingsley reached the State Championships as an eighth-grader a year ago before falling to eventual semifinalist Marcus Smith.

Andy Zhou ♦ Commack
Andy Zhou led Commack to a fantastic 2015 season and is due for a big senior campaign.

Abihnav Srivastava ♦ Half Hollow Hills East
Just a sophomore, Abihnav Srivastava will lead a Half Hollow Hills East squad that graduated its top two singles players from a year ago.

Nick Gadja ♦ Smithtown West
The junior returns in the top singles spot for a Smithtown West team that went 9-3 a season ago.

Jack Flores ♦ Huntington
Jack Flores is only an eighth-grader, but will lead the way for a Huntington team looking to build off a successful 2015 campaign.


Teams to watch in Suffolk County …
Half Hollow Hills West
Half Hollow Hills West (pictured right) defeated rival Hills East in the Suffolk County Championship last year, after two straight years of falling short to them in the county final. It was a huge win for the Colts and their seniors, and they will look to defend its title in 2016. Hills West lost a number of seniors including County Doubles Champions Dylan & Duane Davis, but return with experienced players such as Aziz Rashidzada, Jackson Weisbrot, Cameron Klepper and Tyler Nierman.

Half Hollow Hills East
The aforementioned Thunderbirds of Hills East are always a threat in Suffolk County, and things should be no different this spring. Despite losing top singles players Travis Leaf and Ross Reifman, Hills East still has a deep roster and will be led by Abihnav Srivastava in the top singles spot as it seeks a return to the 2016 Suffolk County Championship.

While the County Championship was an all-Dix Hills battle a year ago, the Commack Cougars put together a 12-5 record and came up just short in the Suffolk County semifinals. The Cougars will be led by Andy Zhou in singles and boast a young core of Peter Yu, Sol Yoon and Andrew Lin that will make them a tough matchup for anybody.

East Hampton
The Bonakers of East Hampton had a great 2015 season coming out of League VIII. East Hampton went undefeated until the county tournament, and surprised a lot of people in Suffolk County when they reached the quarterfinals. Despite losing to Ward Melville in the quarterfinals, the Bonakers showed that it can compete with the best in the county. East Hampton only lost three seniors to graduation, and returns Jack Louchheim to lead the way in singles along with an experienced core.

The Huntington Blue Devils will look to improve on a quarterfinal appearance in the Suffolk County tournament a year ago. Huntington fell to Hills East in the final eight, but returns a deep singles lineup that includes Jack Flores, Cody Bogard and Marco Amirratti that will give their team a chance to win each time they take the court.


Suffolk County Boys Tennis key dates for 2016 …
Friday-Monday, May 13-16: Individual Division Tournaments (Division I at Smithtown East; Division II at East Islip; Division III at Patchogue-Medford; and Division IV at William Floyd)

►Saturday, May 21: Individual Sectional Tournament at William Floyd High School

►Monday, May 23: Individual Sectional Tournament at William Floyd High School

►Thursday-Saturday, June 2-4: 2016 New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center


Brian Coleman

Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com