RED DEVILS 4, CLIPPERS 3
Josh Robinson was under strict orders on Monday. The words of advice offered by his coach, Andrew Sadowski, amounted to: relax, enjoy your tennis and have fun.
Having opened the season with losses from his first four matches, Robinson undoubtedly did all of the above, turning in his first winning performance of the season on Monday. Not even losing a second-set tiebreaker deterred the Southold/Greenport senior from bouncing back for a 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-0 victory over fellow senior Justin Cabrera of Center Moriches.
It wasn’t enough, however, to prevent Center Moriches from winning the Suffolk County League VIII match, 4-3, on its home courts. In the decisive fourth singles contest, Mike Oldham registered a 6-2, 6-2 result against Gregory Quist.
Regardless, it was a good day for Robinson (1-4), a third-year varsity player in his second year as Southold/Greenport’s No. 1 singles player. Robinson seems to have all the tools of a winning tennis player, not the least being a nice stroke. Before Monday’s match, though, the season had not been kind to him. Robinson, an all-league player who went 6-6 last year, ran into trouble — and tough opponents — in his first four matches.
“I was playing alright, but I just wasn’t finding the way to win,” he said. “Obviously, the guys I was facing are excellent.”
Sadowski offered his theory.
“What’s created stumbling blocks for him, I think, is just the fact that I think he has put so much pressure on himself as the senior leader,” the coach said. “I think that was really his biggest problem for the first four matches. He’s played quite well at times, and then just got his feet stuck in the mud. You could see the tension just kind of stepping up on him.”
Robinson discounted pressure as an issue that slowed his start to the season. He understands that there are no easy matches at first singles. Pressure is always there, to one degree or another.
“I don’t think too much pressure is really the case, really, because pressure is what’s supposed to motivate me,” he said. “No matter what position, whether you play first or you play last, there’s always that pressure to win. Personally, I like it. It motivates me to play my best every game.”
Battling wind gusts as well as Cabrera (1-3) in a match that lasted 1 hour 40 minutes, Robinson said he reverted to the approach he used last season, leaning toward consistency over aggressiveness. It worked. Looking calm and collected, he didn’t panic after blowing a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker. He just responded by reeling off wins in the next six games to wrap it up.
“I guess I choked at the end and he gained his confidence back,” said the hard-serving Cabrera, who had 17 service aces and 18 double faults, including three in the final game. “I would have to say I got a little worn down and, I don’t know, I just lost it.”
Robinson said he was consistent and didn’t take too many chances. “I was a little more relaxed, a little more fluid, not trying to hit a winner every time,” he said. “I felt like that’s what pushed me to win this one.”
It might have been Robinson’s day, but it wasn’t Southold/Greenport’s. Center Moriches (2-2 overall and in League VIII) also received singles wins from Zach Schrage (6-3, 6-4 over Devyn Standish) and Mike Valentine (6-4, 6-4 over James Shine).
A team point was provided by Center Moriches’ third doubles pairing of Jason Albert and Preston Horan, who were 6-1, 6-4 winners over Kieran Broderick and Drew Sacher.
The other two doubles matches were three-set affairs that ended in Southold/Greenport’s favor. Gary Prieto and Will Richter outlasted their first doubles opponents, Mike Lemmen and David Livotti, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. Meanwhile, Brian Hallock and Dylan Stromski held off Dan McCarthy and Shane O’Brien, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3.
For Center Moriches, which is in its third year of existence as a team, the team result was a big one.
“I think it was very important in the sense that the kids see success,” Center Moriches coach Robert Spicer said. “It started out with them winning games, literally. They would lose, 6-0, 6-1, and they’d say they won a game. Then, the following year they were playing three sets instead of two, and now the wins are coming.”
Southold/Greenport (2-3, 2-3) was once again without the services of one its top singles players, David O’Day. O’Day hasn’t played since the season opener because of an ailment doctors are trying to identify, said Sadowski.
Now that Robinson has made it into the win column, he can look to add more, but it certainly will not be easy, as Cabrera knows only too well.
“First singles, you don’t know what to expect,” the Center Moriches player said. “You come into the match thinking you always got to think you’re going to win. You always got to have that confidence of a winner. You never know what the competition is going to be. It never gets easy on the varsity level.”