SUFFOLK COUNTY TEAM TOURNAMENT | HURRICANES 6, TUCKERS 1
For a high school boys tennis team with the nickname Hurricanes, the setting was appropriate.
The wind was gusting unpredictably, as it often does at Westhampton Beach High School’s tennis courts, making it a challenge for the players on Thursday. Swirling wind is nothing new to the Hurricanes, however. They are used to it and have learned how to deal with it.
“The wind on these courts can come, literally, from any direction,” said John Czartosieski, who is in his 15th year as Westhampton Beach’s coach. “It can swirl from the east. It can come out of the south. It can come from the north. … It’s nuts.”
That knowledge of local conditions, along with their considerable talent, enabled the Hurricanes to blow past Mattituck, 6-1, in a Suffolk County Team Tournament Round of 16 match. During the regular season, Westhampton Beach posted a pair of 7-0 wins over the Tuckers.
One of Mattituck’s seniors, Kevin Schwartz, said, “It was inevitable, I think, the result.”
Sixth-seeded Westhampton Beach (14-2), the League VII champion, is a quality team. The Hurricanes, county semifinalists last year, have never won a county championship, although they did reach county finals twice. They advance to a quarterfinal Friday against No. 3 Commack or No. 19 Walt Whitman.
In the only match to go beyond two sets on Thursday, Westhampton Beach’s Brian Schwartz edged Andrew Young. The two third singles players split the first two sets (Schwartz took the first set, 6-4, and Young the second set, 6-3) before Schwartz prevailed in a super tiebreaker, 10-7.
Charles Hickox brought No. 11 Mattituck (12-5) its only team point at fourth singles. Hickox defeated Luke Jurrow, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2).
Westhampton Beach’s impressive first singles player, Cooper Lacetera, recorded 20 service aces and did not commit a double fault in his 7-5, 6-1 win over Garrett Malave in a match that was over in 50 minutes.
Lacetera, a senior, is a two-time Division IV champion. He placed fourth in the county individual tournament recently. After high school, Lacetera will play for Redlands University (Calif.).
“He’s worked hard to get where he is,” said Czartosieski.
Malave, who was on the receiving end of Lacetera’s serves, which have been known to exceed 100 miles per hour, knew he was in for a tough match. He welcomed the challenge.
“It really, really does push me,” Malave said. “I like matches like that where it forces me to play better.”
Malave said it was a match of momentum. After falling behind, 3-0 and 4-1 in the first set, the momentum swung a bit in Malave’s favor and he tied it at 5-5 before Lacetera closed out the set. Lacetera then outpointed Malave, 26-12, in the second set.
“He could control the momentum more,” Malave said. “He made sure that I didn’t get it back.”
But Malave could take confidence from his well-played first set and the knowledge that, as a sophomore, he was hanging with possibly the best player he has faced this season.
Mattituck coach Mike Huey believes Malave is on the path to reaching the level where Lacetera is. “You’re going to see big change next year and the year after,” Huey said. “Garrett is going to be that guy.”
Another Westhampton Beach singles player, Kevin Cino, was on the winning end of a 6-3, 6-4 scoreline against Parker Tuthill.
All three doubles matches went Westhampton Beach’s way: Zach Ellenhorn and Beecher Halsey beat Tyler Rochon and Kevin Schwartz, 6-2, 6-1; Raj Chayalod and Riley Smith teamed up for a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Ty Bugdin and Sean Granberg; and Christian Prag and Sam Santora downed Nick Rabkevich and Joe Salice, 6-0, 6-0.
“He has a really, really nice group of boys, and they’re very talented,” Czartosieski said of Huey’s Tuckers. “The score may have seemed a little lopsided, but I’m telling you, they make their opponent, every opponent, hit the ball, and they really make them earn it.”
Huey judged the season a success. The Tuckers finished in third place in League VII and scored a playoff win over Longwood.
“This is going to be a huge building block for next year because we’re expecting bigger and better things from next year,” he said, adding, “I think we’re going to be the team to beat.”