Rose Hayes had been in a similar situation before.
The Westhampton freshman walked off the court after dropping the first set of the Suffolk individual girls tennis championship match and knew losing one more would end her bid for the title.
A year after losing the final in two sets while she was playing for Mercy, Hayes bounced back to win the last two sets on Wednesday, finishing off a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 championship win over Commack’s Emily Tannenbaum at Shoreham-Wading River. Both players advance to the state tournament in Latham, which begins Oct. 27.
“You always have to adjust,” Hayes said. “I stayed focused and I was confident.”
The adjustments for Hayes started before Wednesday. She was a member of the McGann-Mercy team in 2017 but now attends Westhampton after Mercy closed following the 2018 school year.
“Everyone was really welcoming,” Hayes said. “Being a part of a team in the fall, especially coming to a new school, made everything easier for me.”
The addition of Hayes to an already strong returning core led Westhampton to an undefeated regular season and the second seed in the team tournament which begins this week.
“I’m very grateful that she chose Westhampton,” coach John Czartosieski said. “It was like winning the lottery, it was a true gift because she’s such a high caliber player.”
Hayes and Tannenbaum were familiar with each others games after playing doubles together in USTA events, according to Czartosieski.
In the end it was Hayes all-around game that took over as the match progressed.
“She’s got really good fitness,” Czartosieski said. “To be that caliber player you have to be out on the court working on every part of your game every day. She has that drive and determination to improve her game and I think that’s what propelled her to this county title.”
Czartosieski said Hayes is Westhampton’s first singles county champion since Jen Dupre in 1998.
Half Hollow Hills East took home another doubles county championship — the third in a row for senior Lauren Cherkin, this time with partner Alexis Huber — as the duo won 6-2, 6-4, over Westhampton’s Onalee Batcheller and Brooke DelPrete.
“We’ve know each other for years and we’ve been on the team together the last four years,” Cherkin said. “Even though I had a new partner I knew that we could win it all as well.”
Huber is making her second trip to the state tournament after finishing third in the county in 2016.
“I had to play singles last year and it was tough and I lost early,” Huber said. “This was a really cool experience having a new partner and winning.”