By Bill Landon
Harborfields’ strength lies in its singles play. The No. 9-seeded boys tennis team swept all four singles spots — all the Tornadoes would need in a best-of-seven series — and went on to blank visiting Brentwood 7-0 in the first round of the Suffolk County playoffs.
Harborfields junior Alex Rzehak, who earned All-State honors the last two years, led his team at first singles. He shut down Brentwood’s Armando Santana 6-0, 6-0.
“He’s our No. 1 player,” Harborfields head coach Bob Davis said of his state tournament alternate. “He plays the best kid on every other team in our division. In fact, the top four finishers in the county are all from our division. This is the second year in a row he’s the alternate. He’s a junior, so he’ll get another bite at the apple.”
Eighth-grader Chris Qi, at fourth singles, also shut out his Brentwood opponent.
“He wound up with a 9-3 record this year in our division — that’s not easy,” the coach said. “We have some kids who are serious about tennis, and [slowly but surely] we’re getting there.”
Other young Harborfields athletes shined during the match. Freshman Michael Singer nipped his challenger 6-1, 6-0 at second singles. Singer made the All-County team this year, and won a round in the county singles tournament.
“We’re hoping for big things from him [moving forward,]” Davis said.
Rounding out singles action was junior Bobby Bellino, who won his match 6-0, 6-1.
“He could wind up being the best of all,” the coach said of his third singles player. “He’s got amazing tools, he just has to work on his consistency.”
The second doubles pair of John Mulé and Luke Verdon competed in the only match that went to three sets. After falling 3-6 in the first, the seniors rallied back 6-3, 6-1 to claim a win in the second-to-last match of the afternoon.
“It was interesting,” Mulé said. “We really didn’t play much at all last week because of the weather. We may have underestimated our opponent at first, they’re pretty good.”
Davis, although thinking his team should have been seeded higher, said he’s under no illusion that his team will have to work hard to prepare for No. 8 Westhampton May 23. The Tornadoes will travel to Westhampton for a 4 p.m. match.
“I think we should’ve gotten a high seed … so now we have to go out and prove it,” he said. “Westhampton is a very good team. It’ll be a very good match, so we’ll see what happens.”
Bellino said he’ll be prepared, but added the doubles pairs will also need to be ready to back up the singles players.
“It’ll be a lot of pressure on our doubles guys — they have to come up big and get those crucial points because if one of us in singles loses, we need a doubles team to pull through,” he said. “I’m just going to go in with a clear head and not think about the pressure that’s riding on the game … just go out and have fun, try to find my opponent’s weakness and use that to my advantage.”
This version was updated May 22 at 9 p.m. to change the date of Harborfields’ next game, which was postponed due to rain.