As the defending county champions and with an undefeated record at the end of the regular season, the Commack Cougars felt as though they should be the top seed in the Suffolk County playoffs.
That top seed went to the Ward Melville Patriots who, like Commack, was undefeated during the regular season, and Commack was given the second seed. On Tuesday afternoon the two squads met in the Suffolk County Large School Championship at Casamento Park in Bay Shore, with Commack defending its county title with a 6-1 victory.
“We knew we had a target on our backs the whole season. We came here as the number two seed, which sort of fired our guys up and we wanted to come out and prove that they made a mistake with the seeding,” said Commack head coach Jimmy Delevante. “We had a good group of kids who were excited to go out there and repeat as championships. We have a senior-heavy team, especially at the bottom of our lineup, and this is all the guys thought about all season. It’s the most dedicated team I’ve been around.”
Ward Melville jumped out to the early lead on Tuesday as Aron Bursztyn & Ethan Timm put their team ahead with a win at first doubles. But soon after, Eddie Liao evened things up with a win at first singles, soon before James Yu gave Commack its second point with a victory at second singles.
The lead for the Cougars continued to swell as Saharsh Peddireddy & Jeffrey Behar won at third doubles, and Avi Gupta & Matt Schwartz won at second doubles to clinch the county title for Commack.
Senior captain Matt Strogach posted a 6-4, 6-1 victory at third singles, while Eric Benderly rounded out the scoring with a straight-sets victory at fourth singles.
“It was hot, probably the hottest match we’ve had all season, but everyone is dealing with the same elements so you gave to battle through it,” said Strogach. “You have to get into the mindset that you have to fight for every point, so I just made sure to take my time in between points and stay hydrated. This was extremely important for us. Every year we set a goal for ourselves to win the county champions, and this year we set our goals even higher. We want to be state champions, so we’re not satisfied and we’re not done yet.”
Commack now advances to the Long Island Championship against Nassau champion Roslyn. That match is scheduled for Monday, June 6 at Casamento Park.
“We’re pumped,” said Delevante. “It’s our third go around at this, and we’ve taken two losses, but I think we’re in a better position this year than in years past. It’s going to be a tough match for sure, but we’re excited and ready to put forth our best effort.”
The winner of the Long Island Championship advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Team Championships next Friday, June 10 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
Scenes from the 2022 Suffolk County Large School Championship
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.