By Bill Landon
Ward Melville head coach Erick Sussin doesn’t hesitate to mix up his tennis lineup. In fact, it’s been a recipe for success this season. The Sept. 25 matchup against Bayport-Blue Point proved no different, as the Patriots blanked their opponent 7-0 to remain undefeated atop the League V leaderboard.
“We lack the depth we had a year ago, and we’ve changed up our No. 3 and No. 4 singles several times this year,” the head coach said. “But we have strong four points [in No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and singles], and all you need is four points to win. That has allowed us to win all of these matches.”
Jade Eggelston’s No. 1 singles match was a breeze, sweeping 6-1, 6-0. The sophomore is typically a No. 2 singles starter, but her head coach said she’s one of the most consistent players, even with the pressure of the team being 8-0.
“You want to keep it up — you don’t want to let your school down,” Eggelston said. “I had to keep my rhythm and maintain consistency, but I thought my serve was pretty dependable today.”
Typically the No. 1 singles starter, junior Denise Lai won her match first doubles match with classmate Anna Ma, 6-0, 6-1.
“Starting in first doubles was a little different for me today,” Lai said. “[But] I look at it as just another match and try to play my best.”
Sussin said Ma hits with incredible pace on her groundstrokes and has a tough serve to break, which makes her a force to be reckoned with. She said she just continues to take each match one set at a time.
“It adds pressure because you’re expected to win, but it also makes you play better,” Ma said, adding that she thought her forehand and serve helped her win the match. “We’ll have to be more consistent and keep our heads in the game — stay mentally strong.”
Senior Keren Collins, normally at first doubles, partnered with Isabella Anderes at second doubles and shut out their challengers 6-0, 6-0.
Collins, a returning All-County player since 2015, agreed with her teammates that being undefeated helps her focus and gives her more of a desire to give it her all.
“It makes you play better,” she said. “It gives you confidence that we can do this. We’ve done it before, so we can do it again.”
Dara Berman won her third singles matchup 6-2, 6-3 and Preeti Kota blanked her opponent 6-0, 6-0 in fourth singles, while Samantha Sloan and Natalia Ferretti’s results were much closer, edging their opponents 7-5, 6-4. Ferretti secured her first win in her first varsity start.
Ward Melville is back in action on their home court Sept. 27. The Patriots will host Sachem at 4 p.m.