“You’re a senior this year?” Mattituck’s No. 1 singles player Luke Kosmynka asked his opponent. Luke Louchheim shook his head: “I’m a freshman.” “Oh, wow,” Kosmynka responded.
The Pierson tennis standout proved age is just a number April 11 with his 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 come-from-behind win over the Tuckers senior in his first match at No. 1 singles to remain undefeated. He made the leap from the No. 3 singles spot.
East Hampton, which includes players from Pierson and Bridgehampton, swept the Tuckers 7-0 for the second time this season.
“It feels really good,” Louchheim said after moving to 10-0. “I didn’t think I was going to win at first, honestly, because I didn’t really know how he played. I went out with big shots and I was missing them.”
Louchheim had sparred with Kosmynka in the individual tournament last year, sweeping sets to earn seventh overall, but couldn’t recall his playing style until a few games in. By that time, the freshman was already down 4-0. He said he also had to shake off the nerves knowing Bridgehampton senior Jonny DeGroot had split sets with Kosmynka, winning a super tiebreaker.
“I can’t beat Jonny, so this was a big surprise to me,” Louchheim said. “I tried to stay more consistent and adapt to his style, use that against him. In the beginning I was going to the net a lot. I learned he was really good at passing shots,” so dropped that strategy.
East Hampton head coach Kevin McConville also had Louchheim hit to Kosmynka’s weak backhand, which helped. He said he knew it would be a good test for his player moving forward.
“He’s fantastic. He’s been great all year,” McConville said. “It’s got to be nerve-wracking playing at No. 1 singles for the first time, but he fought through it, attacked the kid’s backhand, got short balls, and was aggressive. He really executed beautifully.”
Because Kosmynka has such a strong forehand, he was blasting winners on Louchheim early on, and forcing the freshman to hit out of bounds. Louchheim settled down, got shorter and shorter balls to attack, and also kept the ball low, leading to Kosmynka hitting the net with soft shots. As the match wore on, Louchheim used the Mattituck senior’s moves against him, hitting hard shots at the right times to force Kosmynka to slam the ball back, with many falling out as the match progressed.
“He’s come a long way with his tactics. He’s rock solid,” McConville said. “The kid was kind of taking Luke out of his comfort zone. Luke had good forehands and backhands but used to have no plan — didn’t know how to create open space and attack it — and now, he’s playing offense, playing defense, he’s good at neutral rallies. He’s probably the most improved. I’m super proud of him. The whole team is.”
The Bonackers swept the match even without No. 2 singles player senior Ravi MacGurn and even though it switched its entire lineup. Max Astilean bested Chris Siejka 6-1, 6-3 in MacGurn’s slot; Brad Drubych didn’t drop a single game to his opponent at No. 3 (6-0, 6-0); and Alex Weseley shut out his competitor 6-0, 6-2. Both Drubych and Weseley were solid on their own despite playing in doubles matches earlier in the season.
“I think the team is way better as a whole this year,” Louchheim said. “I think we’re going to go undefeated.”
The East Hampton team is now 9-1 overall and 8-0 in League VII. The lone loss was a 5-2 rout by Half Hollow Hills East March 27. Louchheim met his only other challenge in that matchup, where at No. 3 singles he won a close match, 7-5, 6-4.
“I told the team how excited I was about this season, and what I love is how even though we have individuals before team playoffs, everyone is focused on us as a team,” McConville said. “We think we have a real shot. It’s going to take a big effort for any of the top teams to beat us.”