The talent has always been there for Plainview JFK’s Yuval Solomon.
You don’t make varsity as a seventh grader and the state final as a sophomore without it.
“During his state final match last season I was talking to his personal coach Nick Brebenel,” Plainview JFK tennis coach Nick Ventimiglia said. “He pointed to his heart; he said Yuval had everything going for him but he needed to be more aggressive and have that killer instinct.”
Solomon, who fell, 6-3, 6-1, to champion Matt Gamble of Webster Schroeder (Rochester), took the message to heart.
“After the final I realized I was too defensive,” Solomon said. “I need to make sure that I’m in control more and can put points away quicker to save me from running as much.”
Solomon has kept up his strong work ethic, training intensely in hopes of earning another shot at the state championship.
“There are very few days when he’s at not at least out running or hitting,” Ventimiglia said. “He’s been going to tournaments and getting a lot of exposure. He’s seeing and playing a lot of great tennis.”
Solomon hopes his experience on his run to the final will rub off on his younger Plainview teammates as the Hawks will once again be competing in Nassau’s top Conference I.
“I definitely want to go back and try to win this year.” Solomon said. “Hopefully I can play (Gamble) again in the finals and beat him. I know that I can play well against any other players.”
Plainview JFK will be competing with perennial contenders Syosset and Cold Spring Harbor for the conference title.
The Braves’ 5-2 win over Cold Spring Harbor in last year’s county final ended the Seahawks’ seven-year run as champions. Syosset graduated six starters but will be counting on senior Spencer Lowitt to step into a leading role.
“We are extremely young but I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re really good,” Syosset coach Shai Fisher said. “We definitely have the talent.”
Cold Spring Harbor will be anchored by Sean Mullins, who made the state doubles final last year.
Chris Kuhnle of Shoreham-Wading River is the reigning champion in Suffolk. The senior made it to the quarterfinals of the main bracket at the state championship and battled back to finish third.
“He’s physically bigger and stronger this year,” Shoreham-Wading River coach Debbie Lutjen said. “The biggest difference for him is his maturity — he’s not just playing tennis but he’s working out in the weight room and doing lots of training.”
Lutjen said Kuhnle chooses to train with a multitude of facilities around Long Island instead of at a single club in hopes of keeping his game well rounded.
“He plays with a lot of kids who are older than him and it pushes him,” Lutjen said. “He really has to adapt and play more than one style. He has so many weapons he can use.”
Defending Suffolk champions Half Hollow Hills West knocked off cross town rival Hills East in last years final, ending the Thunderbirds five year reign.
The Colts return first singles Aziz Rashidzada and all-state doubles player Jackson Weisbrot at the top of the lineup.