Jackie Bukzin once again walked onto the court for a semifinal match in the Suffolk individual girls tennis tournament.
It was the fifth time the Eastport-South Manor junior advanced that far — finishing second as a seventh-grader but never ending the day as the last player standing.
That changed yesterday at Suffolk CCC-Selden. After winning her semifinal, she knocked off defending county champion Kimberly Liao of Commack, 6-2, 6-3, in the championship match.
“I was really, really excited because I’ve come so close in the past,” Bukzin said. “It felt really good to finally clinch the win.”
Both players had trouble holding serve as they exchanged three breaks to open the first set and had breaks in the first five games of the second set.
“I stayed really calm and mentally tough,” Bukzin said. “I won the first set, so even though my serve wasn’t consistent I knew I could win the second set ,too.”
Liao had a chance to get back into the first set with a quick break to get within 4-2, but Bukzin broke right back and served out the set.
“There’s a really big difference in my overall game this year,” Bukzin said. “I didn’t have a good frame of mind last year. This year I came in with a good attitude and it really made a difference. I felt I had a good variety in my game. I like to slice and come to net, which is a really big weapon.”
She’ll be making her third trip to the state tournament, which begins Oct. 29 in Port Chester.
“All of my previous state tournament experience and the USTA tournaments I’ve played in are hopefully going to give me an advantage,” she said
Despite not having nearly the experience playing in the biggest county tournaments together, Half Hollow Hills East’s Ariana Malik and Lauren Cherkin won the doubles crown, 6-0, 6-4, over Olivia Faulhaber and Hailey Stoerback of Smithtown East.
“The Division I tournament [last] Tuesday was the first time we played doubles together,” Malik said.
On that day Faulhaber and Stoerback beat Malik and Cherkin, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
“We didn’t expect that we were going to come out and win the tournament but we were hoping,” Cherkin said, noting the duo gained a lot of confidence after the decisive first set.
Malik and Cherkin advanced to the finals after beating teammates a Gina LaRusso and Alexis Huber, who defeated Center Moriches’ Gabrielle Valliant and Katelyn Vetack, 6-1, 7-5. in the third-place match
Ward Melville’s Denise Lai defeated Rose Hayes of Mercy, 6-1, 6-1, in the singles consolation.