It looks like it’s going to get crowded at the top of the Suffolk County League VIII boys tennis standings.
Entering Thursday’s matches, Rocky Point, Southold/Greenport and Southampton all had two league losses next to their names. Each of those teams split matches against each other and, with the regular season winding down, it looks almost certain that the league championship will be divided three ways.
Should Southold walk away with a league title, coach Andrew Sadowski believes it will be the team’s first since 2001.
“To do something that hasn’t been done in 16 years, that’s incredible,” he said. “That’s really something to be proud of.”
Southold took another step closer toward making that a reality Thursday with a 7-0 defeat of Hampton Bays. The Clippers (7-3, 7-2) will host Center Moriches (0-7, 0-7) when they play their final league match on May 2.
A three-way tie at the top presents a problem, though. The League VIII champion is customarily accorded a place in the county team tournament. How that will work if the league has three champions remains to be seen.
“Playing in the playoffs is special, and I think it’s something we all want,” said senior Aidan Walker, Southold’s first singles player.
The Clippers are an interesting group, with three freshmen in their singles lineup: identical twins Xavier and Jacob Kahn as well as Devin Quinones.
“We have a few prodigies on the team,” said senior Ethan Sisson.
Xavier Kahn played first singles for most of last season, but Walker displaced him this year. Walker worked on his game over the summer and got stronger in the weight room.
Walker did something else: He incorporated patience into his game.
“Last year he didn’t have that patience,” said Sadowski, recounting times when Walker tried to force shots, only to hit balls out.
Walker hasn’t done that often this season, and certainly not much in Thursday’s match at Hampton Bays Elementary School. In a match that took less than 26 minutes to play, Walker dominated, conceding only seven points in a 6-0, 6-0 defeat of junior Felipe Salazar. Walker put away 24 winners, including nine service aces, and made only three unforced errors.
“He’s an amazing player,” Sisson said. “Even last year I couldn’t stand up to him, but he’s even better this year. It’s ridiculous. He never stops improving.”
All the other matches that were played were two-setters. Xavier Kahn beat Evan Signorelli, 6-1, 6-0; Jacob Kahn downed Juan Munoz, 6-1, 6-0; and Quinones was a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Edward Carballo. In doubles play, Mario Contreras and Dylan Van Gordon won, 6-1, 6-2, over Batuhan Aykac and Gabe Guambana while Sisson and Aidan Vandenburgh topped Andrew Campos and Dario Vasquez, 6-1, 6-1. Southold’s third doubles team of Patrick Connolly and Alex Kandora won by forfeit.
Hampton Bays dropped to 2-8, 2-7.
What has been the secret to Southold’s success?
“Two keys: One, we have a lot of depth,” Walker said. “All the players can play. And then, the second is that we’ve all been committed. We really decided together that we wanted to try to make this a good season.”
And it has been. It sounds like the Clippers have been having fun.
“It’s always fun,” Sadowski said. “It’s why we do this. I really enjoy being with them and enjoy being on the tennis court with them. The championship title race, that’s just a bonus.”
A bonus that may have to be split three ways.
Photo caption: Southold/Greenport’s Jacob Kahn returns a backhanded shot during his 6-1, 6-0 win over Hampton Bays’ Juan Munoz. (Credit: Garret Meade)