Continued Success Expected for East Hampton Boys Tennis Team - 27 East

Continued Success Expected for East Hampton Boys Tennis Team

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x    MARIANNE BARNETT

x MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Jagger Cohen finished sixth in Division IV last season. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Jagger Cohen finished sixth in Division IV last season. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Chris Pilarski reaches for a return during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

Pierson junior Chris Pilarski reaches for a return during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton sophomore Kiefer Mitchell finished third in Division IV last season. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton sophomore Kiefer Mitchell finished third in Division IV last season. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Henry Cooper races to return the ball during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Henry Cooper races to return the ball during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Nick Cooper ended up eighth in Division IV last year. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Nick Cooper ended up eighth in Division IV last year. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Henry Cooper rallies during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Henry Cooper rallies during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Jagger Cohen connects with the ball during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton freshman Jagger Cohen connects with the ball during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Cameron Mitchell, along with classmate Miguel Garcia, finished third in the Division IV doubles draw last year. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Cameron Mitchell, along with classmate Miguel Garcia, finished third in the Division IV doubles draw last year. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Miguel Garcia, along with classmate Cameron Mitchell, ended up third in the Division IV doubles tournament last season. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton junior Miguel Garcia, along with classmate Cameron Mitchell, ended up third in the Division IV doubles tournament last season. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Armando Rangel keeps his eyes on the ball during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

East Hampton senior Armando Rangel keeps his eyes on the ball during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

Head coach Kevin McConville watches Pierson junior Chris Pilarski during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

Head coach Kevin McConville watches Pierson junior Chris Pilarski during practice Monday. MARIANNE BARNETT

Desirée Keegan on Mar 22, 2023

Max Astilean is motivated to make it far this season.

The East Hampton senior tennis star ended last year as the district’s first Division IV champion since 2004, but exited the Suffolk County tournament earlier than expected after battling through the effects of COVID-19.

“That wasn’t the way I wanted to go out, and I’m looking forward to getting farther in the tournament this year,” said Astilean, who fell in the county quarterfinals two straight seasons. “I feel really confident in myself and our entire team, which has been playing most of the year, so shaking off the rust should happen pretty quickly.”

The senior said he’s been working on his overall fitness, along with his serve and volley.

“With my serve and volley, I’ve definitely been focusing on the placement — like being able to put the serve anywhere I want — so I can be more aggressive during points,” Astilean said. “I’ve seen some big improvements, and can play for hours and still feel fresh.”

Head coach Kevin McConville said while Astilean has always been strong on returns, and boasts a lot of power and weapons, he said the consistency is something the student-athlete has struggled with since he started working with him at 7 years old.

“He’s got that last-season loss on his mind, and he’s really focused,” said McConville, who teaches at East Hampton Indoor Tennis, where Astilean plays his practice matches. “I see him all the time, whether I’m coaching him or teaching a lesson next to where he’s playing, and he’s been working really hard and he’s doing really well. Tennis has a lot of nuances, and we work on specialty shots, but his serve is really setting up the rest of his game. When he serves really well, his level goes way up.”

The senior said he’s also been working with his coach on his continental grip, which has to do with the angle of the tennis racket — being perpendicular to the ground so it can be easily adjusted to open up, racket face pointing to the sky, to allow him to hit down on the ball and impart better backspin.

“Having Coach Kevin is a blessing,” Astilean said. “There’s no way the team or I could’ve gotten this good without him.”

What also bodes well for the Bonackers team this year is that it returns its entire roster from last season, and seven of the East Hampton and Pierson players who competed in the division tournament earned the right to compete at counties, though none but Astilean took part due to illness.

“Most of us have been working hard this past year to improve, so I think we will do even better than we did last year,” said East Hampton junior Nick Cooper, who finished eighth in the division. “I’m excited to be back and playing with my teammates.”

Some of the biggest improvements have also been seen in the athletes who round out the singles lineup. East Hampton sophomore Kiefer Mitchell finished third in Division IV, and East Hampton freshman Jagger Cohen ended up sixth.

“Jagger has been the big surprise,” McConville said. “He’s improved greatly with his hard work and hasn’t lost to anyone besides Max. Nick and Kiefer are fantastic singles players, so that’s a huge leap for Jagger.”

Cohen, Cooper and his younger brother Henry, a freshman, have been practicing at the Ross School’s tennis academy this offseason.

“I am really happy with how far I’ve come. My technique has improved throughout the year, but more importantly, I’ve learned how to work with my teammates on the court and how to recover and be in the right spot,” Nick Cooper said. “Personally, I have also been working to improve my volleys and my serve, as those were some of the weaker aspects of my game, and as a group, a lot of us have been working on our serves. Now that we are back as a team, hopefully Coach Kevin will teach us the skills that we don’t learn with drills, like where to be on the court and how to expose an opponent’s weakness, among other things.”

East Hampton senior Armando Rangel said despite taking some time off from playing, his coach has always helped him to regain his confidence.

“We also have teammates with a very competitive mindset,” the senior said. “I feel confident, because I know the team has been working hard and I know what my teammates are capable of doing.”

Also returning are Mitchell’s older brother Cameron, a junior, and East Hampton classmate Miguel Garcia. The pair topped Rangel and returning Pierson sophomore Dane Schwalb for the third spot in the division doubles draw.

“I’m excited about doubles, because we have everyone back and they have a year of my system under their belt,” McConville said. “We were known as a singles school when I became head coach, and I took that as a challenge. We now have the foundation laid for smart doubles and everyone is on the same page. We’re going to be really good and really deep. Doubles will be the strength of our team.”

New to the group is East Hampton senior Alen Mattiauda, who moved to the district from Uruguay, and returning is junior Jesse Cohen, Jagger’s older brother, who was on the team as a freshman and competed with the South Fork boys lacrosse team last year.

“I think we have formed a really special bond during my time on the team,” Cooper said. “We are all friends on and off the court, and I think it motivates us to always do our best for the team.”

East Hampton opened the season with a match against Suffolk County’s top-ranked Ward Melville Tuesday, results of which were not available by press time. The Patriots were the only team to beat the 15-1 Bonackers last season, and are the favorites for the county title this year.

“It will be a good first match,” McConville said prior to the contest. “Our guys are always better at the end of the season, so we could have a chance to take one from them, but this will be a good test.”

The coach said the team’s schedule overall is much-improved and more challenging than last year’s. The Bonackers did not previously get a game in against rival Westhampton Beach, and now faces the Hurricanes and other top teams in Half Hollow Hills East, Commack and Bayport-Blue Point.

What is consistent with this group, the coach said, is that his student-athletes remain enthusiastic and committed.

“They’re at the school now. They’re out there practicing whether I’m there or not. The kids are champing at the bit,” McConville said. “I’ve never had a group of guys in all my years of coaching here so self-motivated. They’re very focused, and were even before tryouts started to be ready for that first match. I’m so happy with them, and it’ll be a fun season.”

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