For half a decade, the East Hampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton boys tennis team has been a model of success, and this season seems to be no different.
The Bonackers defeated host Southampton, 6-1, on April 17 to secure sole possession of the League VII title, its fifth in as many seasons. Their first came in 2015 when the team won the League VIII title with an undefeated record. Dropping down to League VII the following season didn’t seem to faze the Bonackers, who won the title that season with another unblemished record. East Hampton then shared the League VII title with Westhampton Beach in both 2017 and 2018.
East Hampton has one last league match remaining this season at home against Southold/Greenport on April 30. The Bonackers previously defeated the Settlers on their home court, 6-1, on April 2. If they beat the Settlers again, they’ll have gone 52-2 in their past five years of league play.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of boys,” said Kevin McConville, who has been the team’s head coach the past two seasons. “The development has been excellent. These kids have come along in their own way to get better, whether it be in singles-strategy tactics, backhands, or second serves. In terms of doubles, we still have a lot of improving to do before playoffs start, but I’m real happy with the improvement I’ve seen from them as well.”
McConville switched a few things up for their match against the Mariners last week, going with Ravi MacGurn at first singles and pushing his usual top singles player, Jonny DeGroot, to first doubles with Jaedon Glasstein. MacGurn won his first singles match, 6-3, 6-3, over Duke Fagan, and DeGroot and Glasstein defeated Southampton’s top doubles pair, Jomel De La Cruz and Billy Hattrick, 6-0, 6-1.
Luke Louchheim won, 6-0, 6-1, at second singles, Max Astilean won by the same score at third singles, and Brad Drubych won, 6-1, 6-0, at fourth singles. John Jimenez and Jackson LaRose won their match at third doubles, 6-4, 4-6, 10-8. Michael Daffy and Ruben Schneiderman defeated Matthew McGovern and Miles Clark, 6-4, 6-3, for Southampton’s lone match point.
Many of the players on the team say its success has started at the top with their head coach. McConville, a pro at Hampton Racquet, took over the boys program from Katie Helfand two years ago. His expertise in the sport is what many of the players truly appreciate.
“I think it’s an advantage to have a real tennis coach,” said DeGroot, a Bridgehampton senior. “A lot of teams have a math teacher as a coach or a science teacher. They’re not really at a level that’s advantageous to their players. But [Coach McConville], his coaching is really valuable, especially for the players who haven’t gotten professional coaching before. He’s really having an effect on games, not only strategizing during matches, but he’ll say, ‘This guy has a weak backhand, use this shot, and you’ll be able to beat him no problem.’”
Louchheim, a Pierson freshman who has not lost a league singles match in his three years on varsity, said having some top players has certainly helped in DeGroot and MacGurn, just to name a few, but McConville has certainly pushed things with his “intensity.”
“He’s had a great influence on everybody,” he said of his coach. “We’re really picking things up in practice now, but even during the winter, before this season started, we’re all playing a lot against each other, or hitting with Coach Kevin. He’s been really helpful and offers tennis lessons even after practices, which I’ve taken with him a few times.”
In the summer of 2015, Glasstein moved from Southold to East Hampton. Southold had a solid tennis program, but Glasstein, a four-year varsity player who has played mostly at doubles, said the East Hampton program is unmatchable.
“The camaraderie on the team certainly helps,” he said. “Some of the players on the team, I’ve been playing with them for a while now, so we get to know each other a lot better and practice a lot better because of that. We’re all friends and that gives you a lot of confidence with the partner you have in doubles, and when everyone has that confidence, the whole team will succeed.”
East Hampton Athletic Director Joe Vasile-Cozzo said that there may never have been a team at East Hampton that has been able to sustain the level of success the boys tennis team has had over the past five years. The school has certainly seen its fair share of success in other sports, such as the softball teams led by Lou Reale, the girls volleyball teams led by Kathy McGeehan, the Claude Beudert-led boys golf teams; and boys soccer has had strong runs as well. But in terms of five straight years of success, and it being a combined program with Pierson and Bridgehampton, it may be the most successful program in respect to those factors.
“The community lends itself to the sport of tennis, which is a lifetime activity, and I think we’ve had great numbers in it throughout the years,” Vasile-Cozzo said. “The availability to pros out here year round has certainly helped. I think Kevin is a great teacher of the game. I’ve gone out to the courts and watched what he’s done with the kids. He knows the game inside and out and really gets them to know where to hit a ball, and has not only improved their technique but has made them more aware of the game mentally.”
After their final league match of the season against Southold, the Bonackers will gear up for the postseason, starting with the Division IV Individual Tournament on May 3 at Shoreham/Wading River High School. The county individual tournament is slated to begin on May 10, but the real prize that the Bonackers have their sights on this season is the county team title. They reached the semifinals of the tournament last year, but feel with some tweaks and improvements, can be a real threat to winning a county title this season.
To try and improve its seeding in the team tournament, which is scheduled to begin with first-round play on May 14, McConville went ahead and rescheduled his team’s non-league match with Commack for May 1 at 3:30 p.m. in East Hampton. A win over the Cougars could land the Bonackers as high as a second seed, while a loss could drop them to just third. Either way, McConville sees his team gaining a top-four seed, and with it, home-court advantage through the team’s first four rounds.
DeGroot, MacGurn, Glasstein, Drubych, Jamie Fairchild and Alex Weseley, are all graduating this year, and with Louchheim leaving for boarding school next year, the players are well aware that this will be the team’s best chance to accomplish something as a team.
“We’re going for gold this year. We’re going for a Long Island championship,” DeGroot said. “We’re in the best position we’ve been in a real long time to accomplish that. We should be one of the top four teams in the county, so we’ll have a really good chance to breakthrough. And I’ve been told that the winner of the Suffolk title always beats [the Nassau County champion.] I’m not going to doubt [Nassau’s] play, but our focus right now is on Suffolk and winning it all.”