Right after Travis Leaf of Half Hollow Hills East watched Jackson Weisbrot's shot sail over his head and land long to end the third singles match, the rest of his team embraced and casually celebrated the point like they have so many others the last five seasons.
This one might have been the most significant, but you couldn't tell that from the quiet confidence exuded by the Thunderbirds.
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Leaf's win clinched the fifth straight Suffolk County team title for Half Hollow Hills East (21-0) as the Thunderbirds downed Hills West, 4.5-2.5, on their home courts Friday. It was Hills East's 100th consecutive win against Suffolk County opponents. The Thunderbirds were the only team to defeat Hills West (15-3) this season.
Teammates Zain Ali and Kyle Alper, who met last week in the finals of the county individual tournament, set the tone at first and second singles. Ali defeated rival Aziz Rashidzada, 6-0, in the first set and won the match when Rashidzada retired with an ankle injury with the score tied 4-4 in the second set. Alper defeated Evan Nierman, 6-1, 6-1.
"With Zain and Kyle at the top of the lineup and then Travis and Ross [Reiffman] playing singles today we were pretty confident," Hills East coach Tom Depelteau said. "We knew we would compete in doubles but singles was going to be our key."
Leaf won, 6-2, 6-3, and Reiffman won, 6-2, 6-1.
"We were expected to win but we didn't take them too lightly," Ali said. "We knew we had to take care of business and come out ready."
Ali easily won the first set over Rashidzada but it was much closer in the second set. The match ended when Ali hit a winner to Rashidzada's left and the sophomore crumpled to the ground.
Hills West got its points with wins at first doubles, a 6-4, 6-3 win by Dylan Davis and Zach Mollo over Roger Cheng and Sahil Varma, and a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win at second doubles by Duane Davis and Harris Durkovic over Grant Rosenberg and Arnav Srivastava.
But the damage was done in the singles matches.
"Sometimes other teams come in and they don't think they even have a chance against us," Alper said. "It's a mental edge."
Said Ali: "I would worry if I were them because Kyle and I showed this year that we are the two top players in Suffolk County and I think other people should be scared."
And Hills East has once against proven it's the best team in Suffolk.