East Hampton lost to Half Hollow Hills West in March this season in just the second match of a new era under head coach Kevin McConville, who was new to East Hampton High School but certainly no rookie.
McConville is the head pro at the Hampton Racquet Club in East Hampton and had previously coached state championship teams in Alabama for both girls and boys tennis. He came to East Hampton unsure of what to expect, but quickly shaped the Bonackers into one of the best teams in Suffolk County.
Competing as the fifth seed in the Suffolk County Team Tournament, the Bonackers, who include players from Pierson and Bridgehampton among their ranks, beat Sachem at home on May 22 before going on the road to face fourth-ranked Half Hollow Hills West, which beat East Hampton, 4-3, on March 24. The Bonackers on Thursday, May 24, flipped that score with much higher stakes on the line and emerged with an upset 4-3 victory of their own.
East Hampton went on to lose, 7-0, in the semifinals to Half Hollow Hills East, the top ranked team in the tournament, on Friday, May 25, to bring its season to a close. Second-seeded Commack went on to defeat Hills East, 4-2, on Saturday to win the overall championship.
“We have almost everybody coming back, and they lose a lot of good players,” McConville said about the top teams in Suffolk County. The Bonackers will return their top four singles players and their entire doubles lineup aside from Hunter Medler, who is a senior.
Jonny DeGroot, a junior at Bridgehampton High School, cruised in his match against Hills West at first singles, winning 6-4, 6-3, while Ravi MacGurn won at second singles. Luke Louchheim, a Pierson eighth-grader who admitted later that he did not play to his usual level, dropped his match at third singles, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3).
“He had an awesome season, but he said himself he should have won and it just kind of got away from him,” McConville said about Louchheim, who was undefeated during the regular season. Pierson’s Brad Drubych scored a huge comeback victory at fourth singles, winning the last two sets, 6-4, 6-2, after he lost the first set, 6-1.
It was on the doubles courts where the most improvement was made this season. Jaedon Glasstein teamed up with Pierson’s Alex Weseley against Hills West and scored an easy 6-1, 6-3 win at first doubles, while Medler and Jamie Fairchild won their match at third doubles. Fairchild and Weseley had played together at different points this season, but McConville saw opportunity by shuffling his lineup in the playoffs.
“I felt like Brad would win at number four singles and I felt like Jamie and Alex were not having success at number one doubles together,” said McConville, who spent much of the season working on his team’s doubles and what he called their “stagger strategy.”
“It’s when both players are coming to the net very aggressively,” he explained. “We had to learn how to do it in practice, and then it started coming together in the middle of the season. We did it well in the playoffs.”
McConville, who will also coach the East Hampton girls team in the fall, said he would be much more prepared next year with a full season of coaching in Suffolk County under his belt. He also will benefit from the addition of Max Astilean, an eighth grader at the Ross School who is transferring to East Hampton, and Thomas Lawton, a Pierson student who has said he wants to return to the tennis team and would likely play on one of the top doubles teams next season. Those players combined with a stacked returning lineup, and the Bonackers could very well be pushing for an overall Suffolk title next season.
“We’re all set up to have a very good season next year,” McConville said. “And I’m going to be a lot better next year that I was this season. There’s no learning like experience.”