Hills East wins tennis crown for ailing coach Tom Depelteau

Hills East's Jeff Cherkin reacts to a point

Hills East's Jeff Cherkin reacts to a point during his third singles match. (June 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

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This one was for coach.

Half Hollow Hills East boys tennis coach Tom Depelteau was hospitalized Tuesday after suffering a minor stroke, according to Half Hollow Hills athletic director Joseph Pennacchio, and he missed Wednesday's Long Island team championship match at Cold Spring Harbor.

But despite heavy hearts, Hills East honored Depelteau the best way it could -- by winning the school's first Long Island title, and doing it with doubles.

Travis Leaf and Ross Reiffman, one of Hills East's three all-state doubles pairs, took the deciding first doubles match 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3 over Sean Mullins and Nick Stamatos as Hills East ended Cold Spring Harbor's reign of five consecutive Long Island championships with a 4-3 victory.

"It was rough. We had to keep focus the entire time, and it's a dream to pull this one out for Suffolk and our coach," Reiffman said. "It was just in the back of your mind the entire time, 'just do it for coach, he wants this so bad.' So to pull it out for my team and my school is just huge."

Said senior co-captain Jeff Cherkin: "It was just tragic for the team and we weren't really ready to play today . . . Every day at practice our coach stresses doubles, doubles and doubles, and that's a key to our success, so this is extremely special. I just wish coach was here to see it."

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Tied at 3 in the third set, Leaf and Reiffman broke and then held serve on Reiffman's emphatic overhead volley that made it 5-3. They then broke to seal the team match at 4-2.

"The doubles at our school are just top notch," Reiffman said. "It's our specialty."

Hills East occupied all three of Suffolk's doubles slots at the individual state championships, and yesterday took three of four doubles matches.

Another of its all-state pairs, Roger Cheng and Michael Leffler, won at second doubles, while Alec Tuckey and Grant Rosenberg won at third doubles to put Hills East ahead 2-0.

Kyle Alper, who with Cherkin was Hills East's top doubles pair at states, played second singles yesterday since the match was played under Nassau's lineup rules and beat Conor Mullins 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-0 to give Hills East a 3-2 lead. CSH (14-1) made it 4-3 with Conor Dauer's victory at first singles.

With Depelteau in his 27th season, Hills East finished 20-0 and finally brought home the Long Island championship in the team's fourth consecutive appearance in the title match.

"Thank goodness [Depelteau] is doing very well as of now and the kids did a fabulous job for him today," Pennacchio said. "We've been in this match many times and never succeeded, and this may be the best team he's ever had so it's fitting that the kids really pulled through for him today."

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