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Boys Tennis: Southold’s Karsten has a ball in riveting match; First Settlers advance in county tournament

It was a fascinating matchup: Ross junior Ty Gelijns’ overpowering serve against the extraordinary athleticism of Southold/Greenport senior Cal Karsten.

Karsten said he had never faced as powerful a serve as he saw from Gelijns Tuesday. It didn’t matter.

He lost to Gelijns in a riveting first singles match, 6-7 (8-10), 6-0, 6-2. It didn’t matter.

He had a ball.

“That was the most fun I’ve had all year, including my wins,” said Karsten.

Fourth-seeded Southold won the Suffolk County Team Tournament small schools outbracket match, 4-3, on its home courts. The First Settlers (11-5) advance to play No. 1 seed and League III champion Bayport-Blue Point (14-0) in a semifinal Wednesday.

Ross coach Marcelo Reda received bad news about 2 1/2 hours before match time when he learned that one of his players had tested positive for COVID-19, taking him out of the match. As a result, Ross forfeited third doubles.

On arguably the best weather day of the year, Gelijns and Karsten turned in some compelling, thoroughly entertaining tennis. It was 1 hour and 41 minutes of good stuff.

“To be honest, I just had a lot of fun,” Karsten said. “That’s the hardest anyone’s hit, I would say, that’s played me. It made it easier for me to hit hard back on him because I was just using his power.”

In the first set, Karsten fell behind, 2-0 and 4-2, but battled back. That opening set was highlighted by one incredibly long point, won by Karsten.

“As an athlete, his work ethic is 100 percent at all times and, as a result, it motivates everyone else on the team,” Southold coach Andrew Sadowski said. “He’s an intelligent athlete, and when you’re playing with someone that’s trying to overpower you, you have to use your intelligence and your understanding of how to use the power of your opponent’s serve and groundstrokes, and I think he did a really nice job with that today.”

Southold/Greenport first doubles player Jaden Olsen (pictured) joined forces with Quincy Brigham to win their match against Ross. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Gelijns closed out the ninth game with one of his blistering serves for an ace and a 5-4 edge. But Karsten took two of the next three games to force a tiebreaker, which he ended with an ace. Karsten ended up with 30 aces, three more than Gelijns.

Like his opponent, Karsten made some remarkable shots, but Gelijns’ power game took its toll, and he won the next eight games. Karsten tied the third set at 2-2, but Gelijns closed it out, taking the final four games.

“It started off crazy at the very beginning, but then after a couple of games, I got used to it and then I was able to come back and win the first set from being down,” Karsten said. “But once I got tired, it’s just overwhelming how hard he’s hitting the ball.”

The total points finished 92-79, in Gelijns’ favor. He put away 45 winners but committed 27 unforced errors as compared to Karsten’s 34 winners and 10 unforced errors.

“I didn’t really feel any pressure, to be honest,” Karsten said. “I felt like I was supposed to come in losing that match, so I had no stress on me whatsoever the whole time.”

Karsten, who made the team’s lineup as a freshman, is in his second year playing in the top singles slot. He takes a 3-11 record into Wednesday’s match.

Playing first singles is “tough,” he acknowledged, but what is impressive about Karsten is not only does he not take tennis lessons like his teammates, he only plays during the school season because he participates in other sports.

“Last year it was a lot less stressful just because I was a junior, so I definitely really had nothing to lose,” he said. “This year in a leadership position, it’s a little bit tougher, like losing matches, but it’s still really fun and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the ladder.”

Southold’s Evan Maskiell turned in a 6-3, 6-2 win over Alex Frohlich at third singles.

Southold took both doubles matches that were played. The first pairing of Quincy Brigham and Jaden Olsen defeated Rowan O’Brian and Jack Olsher, 6-4, 6-1. Meanwhile, Robert Cooper and Matthew Schill combined for a 6-2, 6-1 win over Brian Chuya and Cecil McGlynn.

No. 5 seed Ross (6-9), which split its two regular-season matches with Southold, gained singles wins from Nicolos Sanchez and Alejandro Valdez. Sanchez downed Brendan Kilcommons, 6-0, 6-2, and Valdez topped Skyler Valderama, 6-3, 6-3.

This is Southold’s fourth trip to the playoffs in five years, the exception being the 2020 pandemic year when spring sports weren’t played. “And it’s a testament to them that they’ve just continued what we’ve been doing for the last several years,” said Sadowski.

So, how has Southold done as well as it has?

“Positivity and work ethic,” Karsten said. “None of us give up. We all give it our all every single match and no toxicity on the team whatsoever. We all love each other.”