It seems there isn’t a Tannenbaum that can stand in Rose Hayes’ way.
After topping Emily in the Suffolk County finals last year, the Westhampton Beach sophomore shut down her younger sister Kady 6-0, 6-2 to snag her second straight Suffolk County crown in three consecutive appearances October 21.
Oddly enough, as in the Division IV finals, where she’d faced her teammate, there was some familiarity with her Commack opponent. In fact, Hayes has played doubles in the national circuit with Emily as her partner.
“It’s really funny, because I’m actually pretty good friends with her and her sister,” Hayes said. “It’s kind of awkward. I know how Kady plays, but I’ve never played her before. It was fun.”
The Hurricanes’ No. 1 singles star was solid across the first set, feeding off the lobs Tannenbaum was throwing back at her, pounding the baseline, and forcing her to hit out. A couple of service errors also went Hayes’ way.
Westhampton head coach John Czartosieski said he’s seen growth physically and mentally in how Hayes attacks the ball.
“I think she’s hitting a little harder and the depth of her shots has improved,” he said. “She’s always moved well, but I think she’s moving better than she was last year, and I think she also gained a little more muscle.”
She’s still a sophomore after all. And despite her youth, she has all the experience needed as a nationally-ranked player — at No. 64 according to Tennis Recruiting Network — who has three consecutive Division IV title wins and now three state championship berths.
“I think I’ve become more aggressive and I’ve learned to stay calm,” Hayes said. “In high school tennis you can get a bit anxious, especially when you only have one try at this, and then you have to wait until next year.”
But Hayes had her serve broken early in the second set. Dropping her first game of the match — the second of her entire tournament — while remaining up 2-1, she quickly regrouped. Bursting out of her neutral position that was giving Tannenbaum a chance to put some pressure on her, she took the next three games, sweeping two of them by catching her opponent off-balance switching between hitting hard and soft strokes.
“If it’s 2-all that’s a huge deal. It’s a lot better for her than 3-1, where it can go either way,” Hayes said. “It’s super important to get ahead before things spiral out of control.”
Tannenbaum took another from her before the sophomore secured the second set.
“I always want to make sure I serve well. I play my game,” Hayes said. “I don’t want to drop my level because I’m nervous or anything. I’m playing the best I can play. Win or lose, that’s what I try to do.”
After being down early to Emily last year, Hayes also knew how important it was to come out to a strong start, looking for the momentum swing to also propel her.
“Usually when there’s knotted scoring, it’s even a bigger deal, so there was a little less pressure, but you don’t want to be out here forever,” Hayes said, smiling. “Everyone’s looking at you — they’re expecting you to win. It’s tough.”
Czartosieski said he’s fortunate to be working with a player of Hayes’ caliber.
“She’s a treasure to the team,” he said.
Two Teammates Will Join Her
Westhampton’s doubles duo of seniors Rose Peruso and Jen Curran will be taking their first trip upstate after securing fourth place. The duo dropped their semifinal match to No. 1-seeded Maddie Germano and Darienne Rogers of Islip, before falling 6-1, 6-0 to Alexis Huber and Skylar Semon of Half Hollow Hills East.
“We were playing a little flat,” Curran said. “We worked on our lobs and a lot of volleys. I felt we were confident at the net, so that helped.”
“I’m a little disappointed we lost today, but overall, it’s an incredible accomplishment,” Peruso added. “With all the tennis we’ve been playing, I think we were both a little tired physically.”
Curran hadn’t played at the county level before, and Peruso hadn’t moved that far through the bracket, but that didn’t mean they were about to exit early. After dropping the first set 6-4 in the opening round of the tournament October 19 to Commack’s Christine Kong and Khaya Sokal, the duo fell behind 5-2 in the second before things shifted.
“We got this insane drive in us, and got it to 5-5 and ended up winning 7-6 before taking the third set 6-2. We just decided that we weren’t ready to go home yet,” Peruso said. “It gave us such an adrenaline rush.”
They knocked out Smithtown East’s Lauren Schiraldi and Anya Konopka, 6-2, 6-2, later that day.
Peruso and recent graduate Juliet Tomaro had topped Kong and her former doubles partner Valerie Slackman to help the Hurricanes secure a Suffolk County final win last season. Commack had also been previously unbeaten to that point.
“We worked really hard for this over the summer and during practice, and couldn’t have made it this far without our teammates pushing us all season,” Curran said. “I’m so excited for us, Rose [Hayes]. I’m just proud to see how far we’ve all come this season.”
The three Hurricanes will compete in the state tournament beginning November 2 in Latham. Hayes will be looking to improve on her fourth-place finish from last year. But first, Westhampton is looking toward the team tournament, which began October 22. The focus since the beginning of the season has been to defend the program’s 2018 county and Long Island titles.
“The team is really focused on that,” Czartosieski said. “They want to repeat, and I told them I will assist them in any way I need to help them achieve that goal.”