| By Brian Coleman



Nassau County Boys High School preview
Player to Watch: Yuval Solomon, Plainview JFK
Cold Spring Harbor’s Josh Levine won back to back New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) singles titles in 2011 and 2012 which capped off a run of six state champions from Long Island in nine years.

But it would take four more years until a player brought the state title back to Long Island, and Plainview JFK’s Yuval Solomon was the one to snap the streak, knocking off two-time defending champion Matt Gamble of Webster-Schroeder in last spring’s state final.

“I just told myself that I knew I could do this,” Solomon told Long Island Tennis Magazine after winning last year. “I have been working at this and playing tennis for years. I had to fight. I was able to get some more first serves in and stayed aggressive.”

Solomon had lost to Gamble in the 2015 final, and demonstrated the improvements in his game, both physical and mental, in the 2016 final. He was more aggressive and his fitness level was second to none, which was evident as the match went to a third-set tiebreaker.

Those are the same things he wanted to improve on heading into this coming season. Now a senior, Solomon has already reached the pinnacle of high school tennis, but is eager to return to the final.

“My goal is to do well at Counties again and get into the state tournament,” said Solomon. “And hopefully have a chance to defend my title and win states again.”

Solomon also has high hopes for his Plainview JFK team who is expected to compete at the top of a tough Conference I. Along with Solomon, the Hawks return Anthony Casale and Jared Philips. Both were freshman a year ago and will bolster the singles lineup this year, and longtime varsity players Alex Fried and David Weissman give the Hawks great depth in their lineup.

Following this year, Solomon will head down to Winston-Salem to continue his tennis career at Wake Forest.

“The team is really good, number two in the country right now, and the ACC is one of the toughest conferences so we’ll always have tough matches,” Solomon said of his decision to go to Wake Forest. “The campus has a small-school feel to it and I just liked everything about the school.”


Teams to watch …
Syosset has been the class of Nassau County for the last couple of seasons and will look to continue that dominance once again. The Braves are two-time defending Nassau County champions and have won 34 consecutive matches over the course of those two years. Syosset has a deep lineup which includes Neel Rajesh, Kabir Rajpal, Preet Rajpal and Eli Grossman, and are clearly the team to beat in Nassau heading into the spring season. The target will be on its back all year long, something the Braves have come to embrace in the last couple of seasons.

Port Washington
Port Washington returns the bulk of its team from last year, including all-county singles players George Kaslow and Tim Serignese. In all, it has five seniors returning and will be anchored by Austin and Max Egna in the first doubles spot. The two reached the quarterfinals of the Nassau County doubles tournament a year ago and will look to build on that success. With a deep and experienced roster, Port Washington hopes to make noise this year atop a tough Conference I.

The Bulldogs of Roslyn had a great season a year ago making a run all the way to the county finals. Although it lost in that final, Roslyn will return with a talented and experienced lineup as it hopes to return to the Nassau final. Last year’s county doubles finalists Sangjin Song and Zach Khazzam will be back with the team. Roslyn will once again be a threat in Conference I.

Plainview JFK
Plainview JFK surprised many people when it reached the semifinals of the county tournament last spring, but their success should be expected this season. Led by last year’s state singles champion Yuval Solomon, the Hawks will put forth a deep lineup that will make them competitive in every match. Anthony Casale and Jared Philips bolster its singles card and experienced players such as Alex Fried and David Weissman give Plainview depth down the lineup as it hopes to compete atop the county’s best conference.

The Chiefs are the lone team outside of Conference I to check in on this list, but Massapequa should be much improved from last year. It won Conference IIA two years ago but went through a bit of a rebuilding season a year ago, and has regrouped ahead of the 2017 season. Niles Ghaffar, Matthew Musalo and Matthew Waterhouse are the team’s top three singles players who will look to lead the Chiefs back to a conference title, and will make them a tough out in the county tournament against any opponent.

Key Nassau County Boys Tennis dates …
Thursday, March 30: Regular Season Begins
Wednesday, May 10: Regular Season Ends
Saturday-Sunday, May 13-14: Nassau County Individual Tournament (rain dates May 20-May 24
Friday-Sunday, June 2-June 4: 2017 New York State Championships


Suffolk County Boys High School preview
Player to Watch: Abhinav Srivastava, Half Hollow Hills East
The Half Hollow Hills East tennis program is always one of the strongest in not just Suffolk County but across Long Island. That was no different last season, in large part because of the performance of first singles player Abhinav Srivastava.

Srivastava, a sophomore last year, was thrust into the top spot after playing the majority of his eighth and ninth grade seasons at third and fourth singles.

He would have the best year of his varsity career, reaching the semifinals of the Suffolk County tournament and earning a trip to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) tournament.

“Playing at States gave me a lot of experience. It was new to me and something I wanted to do ever since I was a seventh grader on junior varsity,” said Srivastava. “When I finally made it, it wasn’t just about me winning, but I wanted to play not to lose. That was the most pressure I felt during a match. Some of my teammates were there, my coach and athletic director were there as well as my family.”

Srivastava took on the eighth-seed Mitchell Ostrovsky of Leon M. Goldstein High School, and played the senior extremely tough, losing 4-6, 4-6. Ostrovsky would go on to the quarterfinals while Srivastava used his experience to improve on his game.

“Since last season I feel I have a lot more confidence on the court,” he said. “I trained a lot this offseason with my dad, who is my coach, and we worked on shots and the strategy of the game. At John McEnroe Tennis Academy, the coaches have taught me a lot, not just shot making and technical stuff, but how to keep my mind calm and stay calm on the court.”

He hopes that confidence will translate to another excellent season for him individually but also for his Hills East team, who lost in the county final a year ago to cross-town rival Half Hollow Hills West.

“Both teams train a lot in the offseason and always working to get better,” said Srivastava. “The East-West rivalry ignites a flame between us and makes us both work harder to try and beat each other.”

The goal for him and the team is to go through the season undefeated and return to the county title match, something the Thunderbirds have become accustomed to doing.


Teams to Watch ...
Half Hollow Hills West
The two-time defending Suffolk County champions Colts of Half Hollow Hills West enter this season seeking a three-peat. It will be led by seniors Jackson Weisbrot and Tyler Nierman in singles and a deep, experienced crop of doubles players who give Hills West a talented team up and down all seven flights.

Half Hollow Hills East
Half Hollow Hills East is always a threat to win the Suffolk County championship, and that will be no different this coming season. The Thunderbirds have lost in the county final to rival West in the last two seasons so there is no doubt it will be seeking revenge this time around. Abhinav Srivastava will anchor the singles lineup in his junior season after posting a successful sophomore campaign. With a mix of experienced and up-and-coming players, Hills East has the depth to make a deep run in the county tournament once again as it looks to regain the title of Suffolk’s best team.

The Cougars enjoyed an excellent season a year ago in reaching the Suffolk semifinals. It would lose to eventual champion Hills West in the final four but should be back again this spring to make another deep county run. It lost top singles player Andy Zhou to graduation, but returns a bulk of players including Sol Yoon and Andrew Lin, who will try to use their experience to lead Commack through a tough League I in Suffolk County.

Ward Melville
Ward Melville took many people by surprise when it came out of League V to go all the way to the county semifinals a year ago, but the Patriots are primed to compete for a county championship once again this year. They will be led by top singles player Nick Decker and have a solid singles lineup rounded out by seniors Matt Roberts and Dan Meinster, who will guide it through its league and another top seed in the county tournament.

Despite being a freshman, Jack Flores is one of the top players in the county and will look to lead Huntington this coming season. The Blue Devils reached the quarterfinals last year and lost a tough 4-3 match to Commack, but return much of its roster which has them confident. In addition to Flores, Nick Newell, Cody Bograd, two all-League players from last year, Jacob Strieb and Jason Kessler will lead an experienced Blue Devils team as it hopes to battle for a top spot in the always-competitive League I. 

Key Suffolk County Boys Tennis dates …
Monday, March 13: Regular Season Begins
Tuesday, May 2: Regular Season Ends
Wednesday-Saturday, May 3-13: Suffolk County Team Playoffs
Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6: Division Individual Tournaments
Friday-Saturday, May 19-20: Suffolk County Individual Tournament
Friday-Sunday, June 2-June 4: 2017 New York State Championships

Brian Coleman

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