Half Hollow Hills West had been on top of Suffolk County tennis for the last two seasons, defeating rival Hills East in the county final in back to back seasons.
The Thunderbirds would not be denied a third straight time, however, and reclaimed the Suffolk crown with a 5-2 victory on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s nice to be back, especially for the seniors,” said Hills East head coach Tom Depelteau, who has guided Hills East to 10 county titles in the last 15 years. “They hadn’t tasted this. And they were a deserving group. They worked hard all year and they came to play today.”
It was the doubles play that led the way for East on the hot afternoon. Adam Wilck and Tyler London won 6-4, 6-4 over Tyler Nierman and Tony Zhong in the first doubles spot to help give Hills East the early lead.
Adam Wilck and Tyler London celebrate a point during their first doubles victory.
The clinching win came down on the third doubles court, as a pair of seniors Paul Rhee and Adam Stein notched a 6-3, 6-4 win over Keshau Khanna and Michael Lombardi.
“I think everyone on the team was especially motivated this year,” said Stein. “We have six seniors on this team and we all wanted to leave our high school tennis careers knowing we won the county championship. So it was a really big deal for all of us.”
Adam Stein hits a forehand during he and Paul Rhee's county title clinching win at third doubles.
The duo fell behind 1-3 in the opening set but were able to regroup and make adjustments which allowed them to win 11 of the next 15 games and seal the county title.
“We tried to poach a little more and be more aggressive at the net,” said Stein. “That really allowed us to get them off guard and gave us some momentum in the match.”
Hills East had already built a 3-1 advantage, and Stein and Rhee got a sense that their match might be the clincher towards the end of the second set, as their teammates gathered on top of the hill above the courts.
“At the 5-4 changeover we could see everybody standing by our court,” said Rhee. “So we knew it.
Both years Adam and I have been on the team, we haven’t been able to bring home the championship. It feels good to be able to contribute and play a part in this one.”
Earlier, Avi Anand had beat Rahul Mathur 6-4, 6-2 at third singles and Ethan Ertel notched a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Sameed Awan at fourth singles to build the Hills East lead.
To complete the doubles sweep for Hills East, Brandon James and Jai Madisetty won a third-set tiebreaker 7-6(6) in the day’s final match.
Hills West senior Jackson Weisbrot beat Abhinav Srivastava 7-5, 6-2 at first singles and Cameron Klepper won 6-2, 6-2 over Sandy Greenberg at second singles for the two West victories.
Despite the defeat, Hills West enjoyed a successful season after losing four seniors from last year’s county championship team.
Senior Jackson Weisbrot won his match at first singles but it wasn't enough for Hills West.
“It’s been a great season. We got here [to the final] and that’s a blessing,” said Hills West head coach Kim Langendorfer. “I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Hills East now advances to the USTA Long Island Executive Cup, where it will take on the winner of Syosset and Roslyn in next week’s Nassau County final.