Eastport-South Manor senior Jackie Bukzin defended her Suffolk County singles championship on Tuesday, beating top-seeded eighth-grader Rose Hayes of Mercy 6-2, 6-3 on a sunny but chilly day afternoon at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
“It was really just will power today,” said Bukzin. “It’s crazy that this is my last county championship. I’m really happy to end it with a win.”
Bukzin, competing in her sixth Suffolk county championships, defeated Ward Melville’s Denise Lai in the semifinals to book her spot in the final, while Hayes, who finished in fourth place a year ago, downed Emily Tannenbaum of Commack 6-2, 6-4 in her semifinal.
The defending champion Bukzin jumped ahead early on in the final against Hayes, breaking for a 2-1 lead as a part of winning six straight games to take the opening set.
“It was a really long game to get to 2-1,” Bukzin said. “I just wanted to maintain my lead in the match.”
Her strong play continued into the second set as she built a 5-2 advantage. Hayes would hold serve to trim the lead to 3-5, but the serve of Bukzin was just too strong, and she held serve in the ensuing game to close out the victory and win her second straight county title.
“It’s always intense when we play. We’re two very good players, but for me I feel my serve was probably the key,” said Bukzin. “I came out pretty strong, I felt that it gave me a good start. I still had to stay very calm. Whenever I serve well, I feel like I have a lot of confidence on the court, so that was a big key.”
The two finalists now move into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) championships. Also joining them will be Lai, who defeated Tannenbaum 6-4, 6-1 in the third-place match.
The tandem of Ariana Malik and Lauren Cherkin entered this year’s county tournament as the defending champions and thus carried with them high expectations.
The Hills East pair embraced those expectations, and successfully defended its title with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Emma Matz and Julia Kinalis in Tuesday’s doubles final.
Lauren Cherkin hits a backhand during the Suffolk County doubles final on Tuesday. Cherkin paired with Hills East teammate Ariana Malik to repeat as county doubles champions.
“It was definitely one of our goals to defend our title,” said Cherkin. “Last year, we didn’t really know what was going to happen. This year we went in with high expectations and luckily it paid off.”
The duo began playing doubles together last season and their success has a lot to do with their chemistry, on and off the court.
“Late last season we put them together, and they just seemed to fit,” said Hills East head coach Tom Depelteau. “Their chemistry is really good. Ariana is very active at the front court and Lauren is great at managing the situation. They work really well together. They care about each other and I think that is an important part.”
Malik and Cherkin will look to build off of their second-round appearance at the state tournament last season. Matz and Kinalis also qualify for states, as do the Floyd pairing of Brooke Fernandez and Hailey Loughlin, who beat Smithtown East’s Hailey Stoerback and Juliana Shultz 7-5, 6-2 in the third-place match.
The state tournament runs from Friday, October 27 through Monday, October 30 at the Tri-City Tennis Club in Latham, N.Y.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.