The Long Island large school boys team tennis championship put two powerhouses across the net from one another.
Suffolk champion Commack arrived with a game plan to use star power and sweep the four singles matches. Nassau titlist Syosset aspired to sweep the three doubles matches and pick off a singles victory with its depth.
Plans, however, are made before a contest unfolds.
Syosset appeared to have executed when grinding Evan Lee prevailed in a grueling battle of long points against the dynamic Eric Benderly at second singles for a one-point lead with two matches still going in third sets. Then Commack’s Jeffrey Behar pulled out a win at fourth singles to even the score.
The last match was second doubles where Syosset’s Shiv Chadha and Aayan Mehta had stumbled trying to close out the match and lost three straight games to the Cougars’ Saharsh Peddireddy and Danny Strogach to drop the second set. Chadha and Mehta stayed mentally tough in the third set and came away with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 triumph to give Syosset a 4-3 championship win at Hofstra.
Syosset (17-1) advances to a June 9 state semifinal at the National Tennis Center.
“After winning the first set, I lost my mentality,” said Mehta, who double-faulted twice in the 12th game of the second set. “I had to get it back for the third set.”
“Even my hands were shaking with nerves,” Chadha said of the final games in the second set, “but we were really supporting each other in the last set.”
The final game of the match went to deuce four times, even as Strogach battled back discomfort, but Cougar shots went long for the final two points.
Nikhil Shah and Devan Melandro posted a 7-5, 6-1 win at first doubles and Spencer Keschner and Dylan Apfel a 6-1, 6-0 win at third doubles for Syosset, which also beat Commack for the 2018 and 2021 Long Island titles.
Edward Laio won 6-1, 6-3 at first singles and James Yu 6-2, 6-2 at third singles for Commack (17-1).
The matchup of Lee and Benderly –—who train together — was the most exhilarating of the contest. They had long rallies that featured Lee’s unrelenting ground strokes and Benderly flashing tremendous athleticism and court coverage.
Lee broke Benderly’s serve in the ninth game and then held serve to win the first set. After Lee went up 5-2 in the second set, Benderly showed grit to get it back to 4-5 before Lee again held serve for the 6-4, 6-4 win.
“I try to grind opponents down and he’s incredibly athletic, so it was really competitive,” Lee said. “I was able to return serve at a high percentage which helped with the breaks [of serve].”
“I was the one singles match we had to get,” Lee added. “But then we needed one more. Watching [Chadha and Mehta] was nerve-wracking but they finished strong.”