By Gavin Menu
Ross School senior Taylor Cohen smiled when her name was called out for first doubles Saturday morning as the girls tennis team prepared to face off against visiting rival East Hampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton. She was happy until she peered across the net where her sister’s best friend, Pierson’s freshman Cecilia Combemale, stood waiting as her opponent.
Many local high school tennis rivalries pit familiar foes against each other, but the close ties between Ross, East Hampton and Sag Harbor has the potential to turn best friends into enemies, if only for a short amount of time between the lines on a tennis court.
On Saturday it was Ross that came out on top, beating the visiting Lady Bonackers, 4-3, although East Hampton was without its top player in Abby Okin, who was out of town. Replacing Okin at first singles was Carly Grossman, who defeated Bridget Connors, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. Combemale, who used to attend Ross, and her partner, Madison Aldrich, lost at first doubles by a score of 6-3, 3-6, 4-6.
Ross also knocked off a preseason favorite for the League VII title last week, beating McGann-Mercy, 5-2, on Friday, September 14. The team was 2-0 going into last night’s meeting with Westhampton Beach, and this Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m., Ross and East Hampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton, which saw its record fall to 1-3, will do it all over again with a rematch at East Hampton High School.
“I feel that all three of our losses to Mercy, Westhampton Beach and Ross could have gone either way,” Michelle Kennedy, who coaches the Lady Bonackers, said on Tuesday. “Several of the matches we lost went to three sets or tie-breakers.”
The relationship between East Hampton and Pierson has been strong over the years when it comes to a shared tennis program. Along with Combemale, Pierson freshmen Sabrina Re and Evan Johnson play on the varsity team, and together picked up a 6-4, 6-2 doubles win against Shoreham-Wading River last week.
But the shared program could be coming to an end in the very near future, according to those close to the program. The Sag Harbor School district introduced a middle school team last year and this season those players are competing at the junior varsity (JV) level under the banner of Lady Whalers.
“We’re hoping next year the varsity will come into effect at Pierson,” said Jeff Peters, whose daughter, Isabel, plays first singles for the school’s JV team. “It’s amazing for a small school how many options they have, but this tennis program has really been great.”
East Hampton was forced to eliminate its JV team this fall and is carrying 20 players on the varsity roster, which is a high number considering only 10 are allowed to compete in any given match. Kennedy said she hoped the two schools would continue to have some kind of shared program, saying that it would be difficult for each school to field a JV and varsity team next fall, noting that at least 20 players are needed to fill rosters at both levels.