With the Suffolk County Championship tied at 3-3, Ward Melville senior Keren Collins needed to complete her comeback at third singles to bring the county title home for the Patriots.
“She’s a senior and she knows this is it,” said Ward Melville head coach Erik Sussin. “I knew she would have that mental toughness to get through it.”
That mental toughness allowed Collins to maintain her composure as all eyes turned to her match at William Floyd High School, and she clinched the county title for Ward Melville with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 win over Melissa Chen for the 4-3 victory over Half Hollow Hills East.
“When I figured out that I was the deciding match, I think it actually really motivated me to get it,” said Collins. “It was probably the most intense feeling ever, knowing we were able to pull it out. We’ve always gotten really close and this year we were able to really do it.
I’m going to remember this moment forever.”
Ward Melville, who lost to Commack in last year’s final, jumped out to the early lead thanks to Denise Lai at first singles and Anna Ma at fourth singles, but Hills East responded by winning the next three flights. Ariana Malik and Julia Raziel won at first doubles, Lauren Cherkin and Maddie Fryer won at second doubles and Janelle Chen notched a win at second singles to put the Thunderbirds in the lead.
Ward Melville's Denise Lai beat Alexis Huber at first singles to help the Patriots win the Suffolk title on Monday afternoon.
Trailing 3-2 with two matches remaining, Ward Melville’s Ellie Berger and Samantha Sloan held off Lauren Kornfeld and Emily Metaxas 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 at third doubles to knot things at three-all.
“That’s the best I’ve ever seen them play,” Sussin said of Berger and Sloan.
That left it up to the Collins, who had already built a 3-0 lead in the final set when third doubles finished, and the Ward Melville senior delivered. Using her mental toughness and lefty forehand, Collins won the next three games to close out her match and the county championship.
“We’re extremely close as a team and extremely talented,” said Collins. “We always have so much fun and keep each other motivated. It’s really been the best season ever.”
Ward Melville finishes its season in Suffolk County undefeated at 18-0, and will play Nassau champion Port Washington in Tuesday’s Long Island Championship at Half Hollow Hills West High School.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com.