The Ross School boys tennis team, which was the county runner-up to Half Hollow Hills East last spring, kick-started its 2011 campaign this week with several high-powered opponents, namely Hills East, Westhampton Beach (presumed to be its chief rival in League VII), and Cold Spring Harbor, the three-time defending Long Island champion, which the Cosmos were to play today.
Ross, which was without the services of one of its top senior doubles players, Cole Katzter, defeated Westhampton 4-3, but lost 5-2 to Hills East. Both matches were played on Ross’s six Har-tru courts, which remain enclosed by a “bubble.”
Vinicius Carmo, the Cosmos’ Brazilian-born coach, said following the loss to Hills East (by the same score as last spring) that he was, nevertheless, encouraged. “We played them better this time than we did last year — with Cole the outcome could well have been different.”
The Thunderbirds, who are picked by Newsday to win Division 1 again, have four strong singles players in Zain Ali, Chris Hunter, Eric Bertuglia, and Kyle Alper, but so does Ross, with Richard Sipala, Henry Lee, Ian Combemale, and Felipe Reis.
Saturday’s singles matches were halved, with Sipala outlasting Ali 6-4 in the third set of a match at number-one that took three hours, and with Combemale overpowering the smaller Alper 7-6, 6-4 at number-four. Lee, however (who was credited with a win over Ali at second singles in the 2010 county final, by default in the middle of a deciding 10-point tiebreaker), did not have a good day in that same spot Saturday, losing 6-0, 6-2 to Hunter, whose photo appeared with Newsday’s Long Island tennis preview. And Reis lost 6-4, 6-4 to Bertuglia, whom Hills East’s coach, Tom Depelteau, described as the most talented (and most mercurial) player he had.
As was the case last May, Hills East swept the doubles, though Spencer Kuzon and Trippie Tuff were competitive at one, eventually losing in three sets to Alex Schnapp and Jeff Cherkin after having led 4-3 in the third. At second doubles, Sam Goldberg and Brett Teplitz won in straight sets over Jack Brinkley-Cook and Louis Caiola 6-2, 6-4, and, likewise, Hills East’s Alex Ricciuti and Jeremy Schnapp defeated Harrison Rowen and Will Greenberg, two Ross eighth graders, at three, 6-2, 6-3.
Katzter, who was visiting colleges last weekend, is expected to play some at first doubles this season with his fellow senior, Kuzon, though at times Reis and Lee, whom Carmo wants to qualify for the county doubles tournament, are to play there as well. When that happens, Tuff, who’s an eighth grader, will move up to singles — as he did in last week’s 7-0 season-opening win over Longwood — perhaps along with Rowen.
The Cosmos, most of whose players trained for two weeks with Alejandro Tejerina, one of Carmo’s assistants, at a club in Mar Del Plata, Argentina during M-Term, could well meet the Thunderbirds again in the county final. “Last year, we had no chance,” said Carmo. “But I now feel they can [beat Hills East] . . . if no one gets hurt.”
Concerning the Longwood match, Carmo said Sipala “played a great match with their number-one, Eric Sumanaru. Last year, Richard beat him 6-4 in the third; this year, Richard won 6-4, 6-4.”
Against Westhampton, a team that Ross defeated twice last year (for the first time) by 5-2 scores, Carmo sent out Sipala, Lee, Reis, and Combemale in singles, and Tuff and Kuzon, Caiola and Brinkley-Cook, and Rowen and Greenberg in doubles.
Inasmuch as Ross won all the singles matches, which were among the first on, the match with the Hurricanes (as is often the case) did not come down to a pivotal matchup.
Ross is probably unique among the schools on Long Island insofar as its team’s home matches are played on Har-tru rather than hard courts. His players were lucky to be able to play on the surface, said Carmo, given the fact that the slower ‘clay’ is more demanding. “It helps their game,” he said, “because the points last longer. It’s easier to go from clay to hard courts than from hard courts to clay. . . . America is building more clay courts now. A serve-and-volley game won’t do it anymore.”
Among Ross’s goals this spring, Carmo said, were to repeat as the league champion, to return to the county team final, and to put as many players as possible in the county and state individual tourneys — Reis and Lee in doubles and Sipala and Combemale in singles.
A Long Island team championship would probably be out of the question given Cold Spring Harbor’s prowess.
Newsday’s preview said the consensus among Nassau’s coaches was that “there is Cold Spring Harbor and everybody else.”
While Section XI had scheduled the Hills East-Ross nonleague match, for seeding purposes, Cold Spring Harbor’s coach had phoned Carmo to set up today’s match at the Nassau school. “It will be good for the kids just to do it for the experience,” said Carmo, who is not harboring any illusions as to the outcome.
In other Ross tennis news, there will be a level 2 United States Tennis Association East region tournament there this weekend for boys and girls in the 12-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under, and 18-and-under divisions. Carmo said 60 had signed up, including all of the varsity boys. Matches are to begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow and continue through most of Sunday. All the finals are to be played on Sunday at 4 p.m.
“We hope to do one of these U.S.T.A. tournaments a month,” said Carmo, who added, in parting, that Patrick McEnroe, who’s now in charge of the U.S.T.A.’s junior development program, will give a talk and clinic for 6 through 18-year-olds at Ross on April 30, beginning at 9 a.m. The tax-deductible $350 contributions are to go to the Ross School’s scholarship fund.