New divisions and a state tournament are just a little of what will be changing the Long Island tennis scene this season.
For the first time, four regional finalists in both Division I — schools with an enrollment of 600 or more — and Division II — with an enrollment of 599 or fewer — will compete in boys and girls state team tennis tournaments. The first, beginning with the girls this fall, will be held on a different weekend than the individual state tournament.
“It has all of us very excited,” Westhampton Beach’s first-year head coach Matt Reed said. “We can’t wait to show everyone what our team is capable of.”
The winner of the Long Island Championship will determine the southern representative that will play in the final four at the National Tennis Center in Flushing.
Teams competing in the Division I tournament matchups will send four singles players and three doubles teams for the boys, while the girls will put forth three individuals and four duos to compete. In Division II, boys and girls will play a best-of-five with teams comprised of three singles players and two doubles pairs.
Suffolk County lineups currently consist of four singles and three doubles, but Section XI, the governing body of athletics, will be adopting the format of the state tournament beginning at the county tournament level. The local alignment change is to help match that of the state tournament.
“The girls are excited to have opportunities to play different schools, and we will be prepared no matter who is on the other side of the net,” Reed said. “It’s my responsibility to make sure that we are well prepared no matter what team we are playing against.”
Reed, who has worked as a high school special education teacher in Westhampton Beach since 2018, has played tennis since he was 6 years old, though the first sport he played was ice hockey, which he began at age 3.
He graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School in 2010, where he also played soccer, baseball, golf and bowling. He played tennis while attending St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, where he received his undergraduate and master’s degrees.
Reed spent two years as the assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s teams at St. Joseph’s before coaching junior varsity tennis in the Elwood School District. Last year, he coached the middle school girls soccer and softball teams in Westhampton.
He is taking over a team that finished 10-0, tied for first in League II last year. The season prior, the Hurricanes went 17-1, falling to Port Washington in the Long Island Championship. Westhampton Beach won the only Long Island title for Suffolk County in 2018, with a 4-3 win over Syosset that capped a perfect season.
“Tennis has been the main sport that has continued in my life, and my passion for it has only grown stronger,” Reed said. “The tennis program at Westhampton Beach has had great success, and I am excited to be a part of it. I hope to continue adding to the success now as the head coach.”
Headlining the team will be senior Katelyn Stabile and her younger sister Julia. The pair competed in doubles during a shortened 2020 season that led the girls to a Division IV title and second place finish in the county tournament, but will be playing singles and doubles this season. Both played singles during the 2019 season. Also returning to singles is freshman Matilda Buchen, while seniors Emily D’Alessandro, Alexandra Sielaw, Emma Way and Adriana Zukas rejoin the doubles lineup. Reed said newcomers like Melina Pinonzek, Ana Way and Julia Greiner show how bright the future of the program is.
“As a new or returning coach of a team, leaning on the veteran players of the team is something that makes the team that much stronger,” the coach said. “Student-athletes that have the experience to guide their younger teammates, whether it be on the tennis court, in the classroom or life in general, is so important. The seniors have done an amazing job so far in practices leading the team, and I know I can count on them throughout the season to continue to be strong leaders.”
Katelyn Stabile said she hopes to lead the team toward another undefeated streak and berth in the Long Island Championship. The weight will fall even more on the returners without senior standout and All-American Rose Hayes — a four-time division and three-time county singles champion with five All-State nods, who chose to run cross country instead of playing tennis this season.
“I still believe the tennis team is very strong and will do very well this season,” Hayes said.
East Hampton Welcomes Back Old Experience, New Talent
East Hampton/Pierson finished with an even 5-5 record last year. The Stabile sisters bested then-Sag Harbor senior Juliana Barahona and junior Sandrine Becht for the division crown.
Becht is back to lead a team of young talent, according to head coach Kevin McConville. East Hampton senior Bella Walsh is the only other soon-to-be-graduate on the team, but also returning are East Hampton junior Lily Somers, East Hampton sophomore Samantha Pillco and Pierson sophomore Rachel Monaco. Somers and Monaco played doubles with different partners last season, and Pillco rounded out the singles card at the No. 4 spot behind Walsh. Becht was looking to play doubles this season, but McConville said he thought his team would be stronger if she stayed with singles, though she may look to compete in doubles in the individual tournament.
“She likes doubles a lot,” the coach said. “But she also had a good record playing No. 1 while Juliana was out with COVID-19, missing the first half of last season.”
McConville said he’s looking forward to some young new talent in Pierson freshman Maya Molin and eighth-grader Audrey Monaco. Molin played No. 1 doubles on the middle school team, and beat everyone in tryouts except for Becht, according to McConville.
“They have good baseline games, both were fast-running — covering a lot of court — and they weren’t just ball-pushers, they were both hitting out on their forehand,” the coach said. “Audrey was actually hitting out on both sides, and Maya was using her forehand aggressively. They weren’t just winning points by outlasting people — they have weapons.”
Still, with 19 schools in the division, the Bonackers, along with every other team, will have a more challenging schedule, which McConville said he’s looking forward to. The divisions will also be power-ranked, similar to football and lacrosse, to help lessen the ability gap between some schools.
“We’re all going to be playing schools that we haven’t played before — we’ll be unfamiliar with — so we can’t scout like we used to, but we should be playing some good schools,” McConville said. “Still, we’re going to be solid all the way through, with experience all over the lineup, and this will only help the girls gain some more of it.”