| By Brian Coleman
Eric Benderly celebrates after clinching the Long Island Championship for Commack.


Third time’s a charm.

For Commack, the previous two trips to the Long Island Championship in recent years were unsuccessful. But the Cougars would not be denied in its third go around, defeating Roslyn 4-3 on Monday afternoon at Casamento Park in Bay Shore to win the Long Island Large School Championship.

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“This year was going to be different,” Commack head coach Jimmy Delevante of his message to his team before the match. “I just felt going in that we were a bit stronger. I knew how good Roslyn was, I predicted it would be a 4-3 battle. I thought we were just stronger than we were last year, and we were able to get it.”

That prediction would turn out to be prophetic, with Commack edging Roslyn 4-3 as the showdown between the two top teams on Long Island did not disappoint. Commack jumped out to the early lead thanks to a first singles win by Eddie Liao, and a third singles win from Matt Strogach.

“We went back to the basics, fight for every point, go for every ball, never assume anything is going out, and I think that mentality helped us today,” Strogach said. “We all encourage each other to cheer for everyone else; I think that really motivates us. That’s why I love team tennis, everyone has your back.”

Roslyn would answer with a victory by Gavin Koo & Matt Stone at first doubles, and a second doubles win from Cayden Shen & Bartek Dziedziach. Soon after, Ethan Solop brought Roslyn within one win of capturing the title as he won in straight sets at second singles.

With just two courts remaining, the depth of Commack would become evident. Saharsh Peddireddy & Jeffrey Behar secured a win at third doubles, evening the overall team match at three-all, and leaving the Long Island Championship to be decided by the fourth singles match between Commack’s Eric Benderly & Roslyn’s Zach Sheena.

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“Eric did this once before last year against Hills East, we knew once they were going into the third set that he was going to pull it off,” said Strogach. “We had all the confidence in the world.”

Despite losing a tight second-set tiebreak, Benderly recovered in the deciding third set, securing a late break of serve to win the set 6-4, and clinch the Long Island title for Commack.

“It was really tough, especially after losing three match points in the second set,” said Benderly. “But I just tried to come out and play as loose as I can, like I did in the first set. When I saw that last ball go out, it was just an amazing moment.”

Commack now concludes its season on Long Island at 21-0, and advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Team Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows on Friday, June 10.

“Our goal before the season was to win the state championship,” added Delevante. “In my four years as the coach, the goal has always been to win the county title, but this year was different. I knew this year we had a chance to do it, and we’re excited to compete in the state semifinals.”

Scenes from the Long Island Large School Championship

Brian Coleman

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