Boys Tennis Team Eyes Postseason

Finishing the regular season at 9-1
Jonny De Groot and his teammates are about to head with alacrity into the postseason. Jack Graves

The East Hampton High School boys tennis team, as expected, assured itself of a share of the League VII title by virtue of a 6-1 win here Saturday over Rocky Point, thus finishing the regular season at 9-1, though — through no fault of his own — Kevin McConville, East Hampton’s first-year coach, flirted with a possible forfeit before the match began given the fact that he could not readily come up with seven cans of new tennis balls.

“The key to the high school [where the tennis balls were] didn’t work. Donny [McGovern, the parent of one of McConville’s players and East Hampton’s boys soccer coach] and I couldn’t get it to open the door, even with Joe Vas [East Hampton’s athletic director] on the phone. Doug [De Groot, the father of East Hampton’s top singles player, and the owner of the Buckskill Tennis Club] saved the day.”

The elder De Groot produced six new cans of balls from his S.U.V. Because there wasn’t a seventh, the Rocky Point coach, who was forbearing by and large, claimed a forfeit at third doubles — the sole loss for the Bonackers that afternoon.

Jonny De Groot did have some trouble at number-one, ultimately defeating the left-handed Nate Hanley 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, but otherwise there was no drama, with Ravi MacGurn, Luke Louchheim, Brad Drubych, and the doubles teams of Alex Weseley and Jamie Fairchild, and Matthew McGovern and Hunter Medler, winning in straight sets. All told, Rocky Point’s players other than Hanley managed to win seven games.

De Groot, who had also been taken to three sets last week in defeating Jacob Kahn of Southold-Greenport (a match that East Hampton won 7-0), displayed good ground strokes and, by and large, a strong serve, though hurt himself frequently in treating Hanley’s weak returns cavalierly, which often set up rather than forced his opponent.

After the two had split sets, and with all the other matches finished, it was decided nevertheless to forgo a tiebreaker and play it out given the division seeding consequences.

De Groot was the first to serve and held at 4-3 thanks to a service winner. He broke Hanley in the next game, and then held for 3-0. Hanley dug himself into an 0-3 hole in the fourth game, double-faulting twice in a row before De Groot finished the game off with a resounding putaway at the net. 

De Groot began the fifth game with a service winner on his second attempt, and followed up with another winner before falling behind 2-3 and double-faulting on the decisive point. 

Another break by De Groot put him up 5-1, but then things began to get slightly problematic again as Hanley broke the East Hamptoner — again by way of a double fault — for 5-2, and followed up with a 4-1 win in the eighth game, thanks to a nice backhand volley to the baseline and a gift in the form of a blown approach shot.

Leading 5-3, De Groot served a winner for 1-0 in what was to prove to be the decisive game, and went up 2-0 with a putaway. A nice lob by Hanley to the baseline earned him the third point, and a blown net shot by De Groot evened the score. De Groot then fell behind 2-3 as a well-stroked backhand drive aimed for the center part of the net caught the cord, but recovered with a deft forehand approach shot to arrive at match point, which he won, following a spirited exchange, with an impressive volley to the baseline that Hanley, who was rushing back for it, could not get his racket on.

McConville said he would work to sharpen De Groot’s approach shots — and to reduce the number of his double faults — though his main emphasis this season has been to improve his doubles teams’ strategies, an effort that has paid dividends. “They’re playing ten thousand times better now,” the coach, who is Hampton Racquet’s head pro, said.

The Division IV individual tournament at William Floyd High School is set to begin tomorrow, at 10 a.m., with quarterfinal and semifinal matches to be played there Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. The singles and doubles finals are to be played Monday, at 3.

As for the county team tournament that is to begin May 11, McConville said he thought Commack (which defeated East Hampton 6-1 in a nonleaguer here recently, with De Groot being the sole Bonacker to win) was “outstanding. . . . The matches we played with Hills West and Hills East were winnable. Hills East beat us 5-2, though four matches went to three sets and we were missing two starters. We were missing two starters in the Hills West match too, a match that we lost 4-3. We’re much better now.”