Juliet Tomaro and Rose Peruso found themselves in some doubles trouble, again.
For the second straight day the Westhampton Beach tennis teammates played in the deciding match with a title on the line. After clinching the Suffolk County crown for the Hurricanes with a victory over Commack October 24, they swept their Syosset second doubles opponents 7-5, 7-6 (6) October 25 to lift their team to the Long Island championship, the first for Suffolk in the 12-year history of the contest.
Leaving Westhampton (17-0) to board the bus to Eisenhower Park, Tomaro said she found some extra motivation.
“I saw a Long Island championship banner for volleyball hanging in the gym, but noticed there was none for tennis,” the senior said. “That increased the pressure, got my adrenaline going. It was a great team effort.”
Peruso said at first she didn’t realize the teams were in a 3-all tie. Not being able to see the singles players through a mesh-lined fence led her to believe there were matches still being played.
“Once I saw everybody watching I started shaking — it was crazy,” the junior said. “That’s definitely the largest crowd we’ve ever played in front of. The cameras, the reporters, the entire fence lined with people, we just tried to block it out as best we could. When I saw the team running onto the court that’s when I knew, and all I could do was start screaming. We’re just so excited.”
But the title-delivering duo had one thing going for them that they didn’t have before, a chance to take the match in two sets, which is contrary to their “M.O.”
“Thank gosh we didn’t play a third set,” Peruso said, laughing. But like her teammate, she was quick to point out that it was a total team effort; that they just happened to play the longest match two days in a row. “We’ve all come so far since the beginning of the season. Half of the team are seniors, so for them to get to end their season like this in unforgettable.”
Freshman Rose Hayes was the first to claim a point on the afternoon. The No. 1 singles standout, who also won a Suffolk individual championship earlier this month, bested her challenger 6-0, 6-1.
“Getting Rose Hayes made a huge difference in all of this,” head coach John Czartosieski said of his McGann-Mercy transfer, who chose to join the Hurricanes after her former school was closed in June. “She was the first one off the court, which is not uncommon. She’s tremendous with all of her talent, with her composure.”
From there though, it was give and take.
Sysosset (13-4) took points for third and fourth doubles wins, and third singles for a 3-1 advantage. At the same time, first doubles duo Onalee Batcheller and Emma Bender and second singles senior Brooke DelPrete were playing tiebreaker sets. Batchelller and Bender finished their match first, with exhaustion and elation washing over their faces after a 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory. The pair played aggressively at the net, which is uncommon in high school tennis.
“They were poaching, and that’s good to see in doubles because that’s how doubles is supposed to be played,” Czartosieski said. “They came in here with this confidence, and just wanted to go out there and play.”
DelPrete won her match 6-4, 7-6 (5) to ensure none of the competitions went to a decisive third set. She said unlike her No. 2 doubles teammates she knew what was at stake.
“Seeing the three losses and knowing I needed this, it’s pretty crazy and feels pretty amazing — this is the cherry on top,” the senior said. “My opponent hit very hard shots a lot of the time, so along with hitting the hard shots she had a lot of misses. Tennis is definitely about endurance, getting the ball over and waiting for your opponent to make a mistake. They lost a lot of composure out there and it was easy for us to stick it out, just make sure we kept the ball on the court.”
Czartosieski shed tears of joy following the win, not just for Westhampton marking the milestone for Suffolk County, but for seeing what his seniors had worked so hard to achieve come to fruition.
“I knew this year was going to be our best year out of the last four or five years, but I didn’t know we were going to be this good,” he said laughing through the tears. “The whole season they’ve been developing their game, getting more and more confident and hungrier with each win. I asked the girls to promise me to leave it all out there and have no regrets no matter what happens, and we did it.”