Undefeated Cold Spring Harbor's 6-1 home victory over one-win North Shore came as no surprise, Friday, but the draw at first singles is what made the Conference I boys tennis match so appealing.
In a battle between two of Nassau's top players, Cold Spring Harbor's Conor Dauer powered through very windy conditions to best North Shore's Phil Antohi, 6-4, 6-2, in a likely preview of a county singles semifinal or championship match, now just one month away.
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"He's a great player," Dauer said of Antohi. "I knew coming out here it'd be tough and we had tough conditions . . . but I'm really excited to get this. He's my best match of the year and it really could have gone either way."
Antohi, who will play at Cornell next season, went up a break in the first set and led 4-2. Dauer responded as he held serve and then broke Antohi to tie it at 4 with a powerful cross-court forehand winner at deuce that landed just inside the intersection of the baseline and sideline.
After an easy hold that put him ahead 5-4, Dauer went up 0-40 in the set-clinching game after an impressive backhand volley at the net ended a long rally. Antohi though used a big serve to battle back again and forced the fifth deuce game of the set with a deep forehand winner that hit the baseline. On game point, Antohi's first serve landed slightly outside the service box for a fault, and his second went long, giving the game and set to Dauer.
"I was trying to play a little more conservative with the wind but every opportunity I had I went for a forehand winner," Dauer said.
Said Antohi: "I never really adjusted to the conditions and just didn't find my range. But the wind is no excuse, we both had to deal with that."
In the second set, the William & Mary-bound Dauer jumped ahead 4-0, countering the powerful winds with his high-velocity forehands.
"I've never seen anyone hit the ball like that in this kind of wind," Cold Spring Harbor coach Ben Marks said. "I was looking for a scrappy match but Conor pulled out some very big shots when he needed to. It was very impressive."
Dauer and Antohi battled once earlier this season on April 2 at North Shore in a very tight, 5-7, 7-6 (5), (10-7), victory for Dauer. Along with Herricks' Vihar Shah, whose team plays in Conference II and therefore won't face North Shore (1-7) or Cold Spring Harbor (6-0) this season, Dauer and Antohi are the favorites to win the Nassau singles championship, something both players are highly anticipating.
"It was tough, he played well," Antohi said of Friday's match. "And now I'm really looking forward to that county tournament."