Devan Melandro of Syosset returns service in a singles match...

Devan Melandro of Syosset returns service in a singles match during the Long Island large schools boys tennis team championship against Commack on Monday at Smithtown East. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Devan Melandro of Syosset has a theory about tennis and momentum: it exists everywhere.

“You see it in singles, you see it in doubles,” the junior said. “The more you make your shots, the more you believe you’ll make the next one. You get momentum and you start rolling.”

Well, Syosset certainly is rolling now in its quest to repeat as the NYSPHSAA Division I boys team tennis champion.

On Tuesday, the Nassau County champion dispatched Suffolk champ Commack, 6-1, in the Long Island title match at Smithtown East High School for its 12th straight victory and a trip to the state semifinals.

Syosset (16-2) will meet Pittsford Sutherland of Section V in Friday’s 9:30 a.m. semifinal at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in Queens.

The other semifinal pits Mamroneck from formidable Section I against Bethlehem of Section II. The winners meet for the state crown at 3 p.m. that day.

Syosset’s matchup with Commack (19-2) seemed to hinge on four matches in the middle of the lineups that figured to be hotly contested: second and third singles and first and second doubles. Syosset won all four, but it wasn’t smooth sailing.

Melandro was especially sharp in his match against Commack’s James Yu. He won the last four games of the first set and then rode that momentum — there’s that word again — to win the first four games of the second set. Yu, a master of comebacks this season, did pick up a service break before Melandro finished off the 6-3, 6-2 victory at second singles.

“My forehand was really good in that stretch and I had a bunch of good serves, including an ace,” Melandro said of winning eight straight games. “I really wanted to take this. Our team wants to win the [state] championship as much as a team could.”

Eric Benderly’s straight-sets victory at first singles was the lone Commack win. Down 3-1, the gritty Cougars threatened to make things interesting.

Syosset and Commack split the first two sets and readied for a third at both first and second doubles. And at third singles, the Cougars’ Jeffrey Behar was staging a comeback from 1-3 against Syosset’s Aayan Mehta.

Mehta abandoned his usual baseline style against the athletic Behar and his play at the net provided the clincher. He broke serve in the 10th game of the second set by playing a great angle for a 6-3, 6-4 win. The remaining matches were decided by playing a super set.

“Commack is very good and we felt every match could be the one that made a difference,” Mehta said. “There was pressure, but we had a good crowd and we have played in big matches like this.”

“[Our] mentality going into any match is that as the pressure builds, [we] lock in more and get more committed to practice,” Syosset coach Shai Fisher said. “I was at [state individual championships] this weekend and they practiced without me. We have seven seniors that know this is their last chance and take charge.”

Commack was playing in its fourth straight LI championship, a big accomplishment this season because the return of 2023 state singles champion Edward Liao didn’t materialize.

“This team has been incredibly resilient, so often coming back to win when we’ve been down,” Commack coach Jimmy Delevante said. “We just got beaten by a better team today.”

Veyd Trivedi and Grayson Prince didn’t drop a game to win at third doubles and Shiv Chadha and Ansh Jolly lost only three games to win at fourth doubles for Syosset.

Now it’s on to the state semis.

“You realize as a senior in the playoffs that every match could be your last,” said Syosset senior captain Spencer Keschner, part of the winning first doubles team. “No one wants to leave. No one wants it to end.”


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