Josh Kaplan is a standout sophomore singles player.
The No. 2 seed for Westhampton Beach made it back to the Division IV individual tournament championship match for the second straight year May 7, this time after falling in three sets to Center Moriches junior and No. 1 seed Michael Koscinski, 6-3, 0-6, 1-6.
“I was excited after he won the first set 6-3. They both played pretty well that first set. I think Josh took advantage of some opportunities he had, which made the difference,” head coach John Czartosieski said. “In the second and third sets I think Mike elevated his game a lot more. Maybe once that first set was done he was able to relax a little bit more.”
Kaplan, who went 12-2 during the regular season, barreled his way through the bracket to the semifinals, sweeping all three matches in straight sets and losing at most three games in one match. But his biggest win came with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 breakdown of No. 3 Jonny DeGroot, a Bridgehampton student who plays with East Hampton.
“He grinded it out with Jonny,” Czartosieski said. “There was a lot of adversity from both players, things on both of their minds affecting them, and in the end Josh just handled it a little bit better. I think Jonny showed he was maybe a little tired at the end, which helped Josh propel to that 6-1 score.”
DeGroot was battling through two Advanced Placement exams the first seven hours of the day, and after a drive from Bridgehampton to Shoreham-Wading River High School, had to play his quarterfinal match, a 6-2, 6-1 sweep of Westhampton’s Andre Insalaco, before facing Kaplan at 7 PM. Kaplan was at the school since at least noon, having to wait for DeGroot once his own quarterfinal match ended.
During Kaplan’s finals match the next day, DeGroot played teammate Ravi MacGurn, who he beat 7-6, 6-0 to finish the tournament in third place, the same as the East Hampton senior’s No. 3 seed. Pierson freshman Luke Louchheim, who also plays for East Hampton, was technically the No. 5 seed, but he was bumped down to the No. 7 seed for the tournament, and ended up in his rightful place with a win over Westhampton’s No. 8 seed Trevor Hayes. To get to the quarterfinals, Hayes, a seventh-grader, topped East Hampton eighth-grader Max Astilean in a long, arduous battle, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6).
East Hampton head coach Kevin McConville said he was most impressed with how Louchheim played across the tournament.
“He played two kids that were really consistent groundstrokers and he employed a really smart strategy hitting the ball short, because those kids would hit high and deep, sit back there and suck you into a ball-pushing match,” he said. “I was super proud of him. He executed, even though he’s not comfortable doing that. He made those kids come to the net and he played really well.”
Despite DeGroot’s loss to Kaplan the coach also saw improvement in his senior’s game.
“Not just taking two tests and having to play two games under the lights, he’s executing so much better, I’m really proud of his development,” McConville said. “He’s employing the same strategy, just executing better, making far fewer mistakes on his volleys, and he’s coming in on everyone’s first and second serves, which I’ve been asking him to do all year — not playing any rally points.”
The Bridgehampton multi-sport athlete is one of the only kids in the division who comes in, behind Koscinski, an offensive baseliner who goes for big groundstrokes. Kaplan also comes in for his opportunities.
“Jonny comes in on everything and tries to apply that pressure throughout, not just when you get passed once or twice,” McConville said. “He waits for his opponent’s level to drop, which it came and went against Josh in that three-setter.”
With Kaplan’s finals match, his coach thought it wasn’t so much that he played poorly in his last two sets, because he didn’t make as many errors, but Koscinski was able to elevate his game and connect on the shots he was trying for and just missing in the first.
“All areas of his game have improved,” Czartosieski said. “I like the way he’s hitting, he prepares the racquet on the ground strokes, his serve has gotten better — he has a real nice, smooth motion — and he’s just a sophomore, so he has a lot of time to keep getting better.”
East Hampton’s doubles duo of seniors Jaedon Glasstein and Alex Weseley, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed, lost to Southold-Greenport’s No. 3 twin brother tandem of Jacob and Xavier Kahn, 6-3, 2-6, 4-6. Southold-Greenport’s Cole Brigham and Devin Quinones, the No. 2 seed, beat Westhampton’s No. 4 Kasper Buchen and Jake Ongania 6-1 6-3 in the consolation finals.
“Those kids from Southold were good, they earned it,” McConville said. “It would’ve especially helped them to win for the seeding with the Suffolk County tournament, but they’re not in a bad place.”
Still, he’ll take his five players, who all who earned All-County nods along with the rest of the top eight, into the county tournament. Westhampton also sends five to counties — four singles players and a doubles pair. After unexpected finishes for most of the boys, they’re hungrier to make some noise at the Suffolk County championship that begins May 10 at Half Hollow Hills West at noon.
Kaplan drew the No. 8 seed, DeGroot 10, MacGurn 15, and Louchheim 17. Hayes is seeded 21, Westhampton’s Andre Insalaco 26, and Mattituck’s Luke Kosmynka 29. Koscinski sits at No. 3. What helped the East Hampton boys, is that DeGroot beat both Half Hollow Hills East and Commack’s No. 1 singles players, Louchheim beat Hills East’s and West’s No. 3, and MacGurn Hills West’s No. 2. Hills East is the No. 1 and Commack the No. 2 seed in the team tournament.
“We feel good,” McConville said. “I feel proud to bring this group. They’re all great competitors, and have really, really good chances to win most every match they’re in. It’s been really fun being their coach.”
Insight into Suffolk County tournament
Harborfields seniorAlex Rzehak, who has been at first single the last three years, was named All-State last two, and is a Blue Chip USA player, is a heavy favorite to win. The No. 1 seed almost always beats his opponents 6-0, 6-0.
Commack’s No. 1 doubles pair of James Yu and Eddie Liao (No. 3 seed), along with No. 2 Gabe Chan and Tyler D’Amato (No. 8) are duos East Hampton will have an eye on. Hills East’s Han and Cheng are the No. 1 seed.
“When you have two small, young kids who don’t miss, and they’re really crafty, you’re going to have to hit tons of high volleys and overheads, because we play aggressive, get two to the net every opportunity we get,” McConville said of preparing Glasstein and Weseley for facing Yu and Laio. “They’re also not used to two back, and Commack employs high formation on their serves.”
The top three singles players and doubles team earn a berth to the state tournament.
“These guys all have experience being here last year,” McConville said. “They know what to expect, and what it takes to prepare to do well.”