Conference championship for Mepham


After dropping its season opener in early April by losing six out of seven courts to conference rival Long Beach, Mepham boys’ tennis needed to be just about perfect the rest of the way to compete for a conference title.

Thirteen straight victories later, the Pirates accomplished just that, capping off their season last week by adding a Conference 3B championship to their trophy case.

With a mix of returning and newer athletes, coach Kerri Latuso said it was her team was defined by its ability to come together as a unit, especially when met with adversity. “The thing that worked the best this year was team camaraderie,” said the third-year coach. “They wanted it and worked as a team. They knew they had to come together to be successful.”

There was no shortage of signature victories along the way, including avenging their lone loss against Long Beach on May 1. The very next day at Wantagh, with both teams having lost just one game all season, the drama was at full tilt with first place on the line.

Mepham showed its comeback ability on that day, when, down 3-1, they tied it up on two victories by their first and fourth doubles pairings, putting the match’s fate in the hands of their third doubles team: sophomore Brian Friedlander – who normally served as an alternate – and junior Dylan Patwell. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak, Friedlander and Patwell won a tiebreak of their own in the second set, and won the third set 6-4 to give Mepham the overall victory, 4-3.

“The day that we played that match, those boys came focused and ready to go,” Latuso said. “They took everything we did in practice and put it into play.”

Dealt a tough assignment in the first round of the playoffs on May 9 against third-seeded Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK from Conference 1, Mepham ended its season with a first round playoff exit.

The team received strong play throughout the season from its primary singles players, with freshmen Alexander Kulikowski and August Bresnaider going 8-3 and 8-4, respectively, as second and third singles. Jesse Schiffman at first singles held his own against the top players in the conference at 4-5.

While the squad’s doubles pairings differed on occasion, Latuso pointed to the strong play of junior Jon Gaufman, who had a 9-0 individual record on first doubles.

On fourth doubles, seniors Matt Serpe and Andrew Zink ran the table, finishing 12-0 as a duo. Playing together for three consecutive years, the pair have developed a solid chemistry, Latuso said, with Zink’s skill at the net and Serpe’s baseline play complementing each other well.

Other notable individual records included senior Matt Spector at 8-2, senior Jeremy Sass at 9-3, senior Srikar Indrakanti at 8-3, sophomore Kyle Tinter at 12-1 and Patwell at 11-1.

But what made the team a joy to coach, said Latuso, was the way her players handled themselves on and off the court. “They’re the most respectful and driven group of boys I’ve ever coached,” she said. “The team camaraderie they had with each other and the respect they showed was the reason they were successful.”