For the first time in six years, Half Hollow Hills East is the Suffolk County Girls’ Champions.
The Thunderbirds defeated the Hurricanes of Westhampton Beach 4-3 on Tuesday afternoon at Hills East High School, edging the West Bracket champions in a thrilling county final that came down to one court.
“I’m so proud of this whole team,” said Hills East head coach Steven Ferrantello. “This team is extremely deep, and they are always having fun. They try not to put too much pressure on themselves. They work hard in practice, and come out here and execute during matches. I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”
Hills East and Westhampton Beach would split the first six matches on the day, leaving the county final to be decided by the fourth singles showdown between Angelina Malik of Hills East and Emma Way of Westhampton Beach.
Way took the first set 6-4, but Malik began to work her way back into the match in the middle of the second set. As the other courts finished up, the teams and fans began to gather by the fourth singles court.
“I definitely used that as motivation,” said Malik. “It made me want to win the match even more, knowing I had my whole team back there supporting me.”
Malik secured a late break to claim the second set, forcing a deciding third which only added more tension to the county championship.
“I kept on telling her, keep fighting, take it point-by-point, and don’t worry about the overall score,” said Ferrantello. “If you play your game, you’ll be okay. She had the belief that she could back in it, she could win it.”
With all eyes on them, Malik and Way battled it out in the third set. The two traded breaks to open the set, and would continue to go back-and-forth throughout the decider. Things remained even until Malik broke for a 6-5 lead, and proceeded to serve out the set and clinch the county championship for her team.
“I was just trying to keep moving my feet and keep going,” said Malik. “Just take it point-by-point, and not give up.”
Malik’s victory was the fourth one on the day for Hills East. The Thunderbirds were also led by its doubles teams, as Leila Curtis & Rachel Neuman defeated Emily D’Alessandro & Lexi Sielaw at first doubles, Ariel Dubler & Alana Zinkin won against Kylie Way & Ana Way at second doubles, and Maggie Wang & Samantha Heyman beat Melina Pinozek & Mia Failla on the third doubles court.
For Westhampton Beach, Katelyn Stabile defeated Victoria Czoch at first singles, Matilda Buchen beat Emma Sarner at second singles, and Julia Stabile was a third singles winner over Christina Zhao.
Matilda Buchen won her second singles match for Westhampton Beach
Hills East now advances to the Long Island Large School Championship against Syosset on Wednesday afternoon. The winner advances to the New York State semifinals.
“It’s a really big deal for our school and this program, and the girls are really excited to be able play at least one more match,” said Ferrantello.