BOB LIEPA PHOTO
Devon Brewer of Riverhead lost to Rocky Point’s Ruslan Ardashev in the only three-setter of the day, 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-2.
What a difference a league can make.
The difference in the caliber of play in boys tennis between Suffolk County League VII and League VIII is staggering. And no one knows that better than the Rocky Point Eagles.
Rocky Point went 0-12 in League VII last year when it tangled with tough league opponents such as the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes and The Ross School Ravens.
Life has taken a dramatic turn for the Eagles since they were dropped down to League VIII for this season. Rocky Point recorded its fifth win in six matches and brought its league mark to 4-1 on Monday when it breezed to a 7-0 win over the Riverhead Blue Waves. With results like this, last season becomes more and more of a distant memory for the Eagles.
“It’s completely different,” Rocky Point’s first singles player, Sam Agoglia, said. “Last year was tough on the team’s confidence and [people were] kind of down, not knowing what this year would bring. And this year it’s been a great experience. It’s kind of strange, winning. I don’t know how to feel about it.”
Winning may be something the Eagles can get used to. Their only loss has been by a 4-3 score to the undefeated William Floyd Colonials, winners of their first three matches. A battle for the league title is brewing between the two teams, which will meet again on April 27 at William Floyd High School.
Taking its lumps in League VII had a positive side to it for Rocky Point. It might have made the Eagles better players, even if their record didn’t reflect it.
“I think we were used to every match having to be mentally prepared for the match and play our best tennis to compete,” said Agoglia, a four-year varsity player in his third season at first singles.
That preparation appears to have served Rocky Point well. The team continued its fine run on Monday at Riverhead High School as Agoglia and Rocky Point’s first and second doubles teams all remained unbeaten.
Agoglia, a senior with a powerful serve, recorded 11 service aces in his 6-3, 6-0 defeat of freshman Seth Conrad.
Conrad said his play was hindered by a pinky finger he had cut while opening a can of tennis balls before the match. Conrad said his finger bothered him more as the match progressed. The scores seemed to bear that out. After taking a 3-2 lead in the first set, Conrad didn’t win another game. He was outpointed, 40-14, the rest of the way.
In the only three-set match of the day, Ruslan Ardashev pulled out a 7-2 tiebreaker in the first set before going on to win, 4-6, 6-2, over Devon Brewer in second singles.
Rocky Point’s two other singles players, Zack Mylinski and Kamil Rismiszenski, won with little trouble. Mylinski defeated John Rios, 6-3, 6-1, and Rismiszenski was a 6-0, 6-2 winner over Geoff Wells.
Also triumphing were Rocky Point’s three all-senior doubles teams. The first doubles duo of Danny Lounsburg and Austin Whyte trounced Stephen Loquet and Andrew Plattner, 6-0, 6-1. Rocky Point’s No. 2 doubles team of Adam Pometti and Pete Valerio avoided a third set in their 6-1, 7-5 decision over Victor Camacho and Efe Erol. The third doubles match saw Steve Fotion and William O’Connor beat Christian Blank and Patrick Carroll, 6-0, 6-0.
Riverhead remains winless at 0-5, 0-4. With no junior varsity or middle school teams to draw players from, and eight starters who are new to tennis, Riverhead Coach Bob Lum has his work cut out for him.
“I’m trying to get them up to speed really, really fast,” he said. “Where they are as far as the results is disappointing; where they are as far as where they started from is not disappointing. I have to go with what I have. I can’t look at just the scores.”
Rocky Point learned that lesson last year, and now look where the Eagles are.
Winning has a lot of pluses, as Rocky Point has found.
“It brings you closer together when you start winning matches,” Rocky Point Coach Jim Buonconsiglio said. “The atmosphere [around the] team has just been great. You go from 0 and 12 to a winning record this season.”
For a moment there, it sounded as if even he couldn’t believe it.