After season dedicated to two teammates, Roslyn boys tennis falls in county final

After season dedicated to two teammates, Roslyn boys tennis falls in county final
Roslyn No. 2 singles player Bartek Dziedziach prepares to serve during the May 29 county championship match vs. Syosset, at Hofstra. Photo credit: Michael J. Lewis

 It was a season whose purpose was known from the start.

“Win it for the boys.”

The Roslyn boys tennis team has had to deal with so much trauma over the past 14 months after losing team members Drew Hassenbein and Ethan Falkowitz in a car accident on May 3, 2023.

And so from the start of this year, seniors Justin Sherman and Cayden Shen recalled Wednesday, everyone on the Bulldogs squad had all the motivation it needed.

And at Hofstra University Wednesday in the Large Schools team championship against Syosset, and backed by dozens of family and alumni, Roslyn tried to complete a magical season.

Unfortunately, the juggernaut Syosset program proved to be just a touch better. Winning two singles matches and three doubles tilts, the Braves captured their seventh Nassau title in the past nine years, beating Roslyn 5-2.

“It’s a great rivalry because we push each other and each team wants to do better,” said Roslyn coach Kerriann Jannotte-Hinkley. “I don’t want to speak for their team, but I feel that the way we usually feel is that if we can’t win (the county title), we’re happy it’s them winning it.”

For Roslyn, this season was all about starting to feel whole again. Junior Ethan Solop, the No. 1 singles player, was in the crash that killed Hassenbein and Falkowitz and suffered a serious leg injury.

But he came back healthy this season and dominated, winning all but one singles match. Wednesday, he cruised to a 6-1, 6-2 win over Syosset’s Nikhil Shah.

“On and off the court, he’s the toughest kid I’ve ever met in my life,” Roslyn senior Justin Sherman said. “He’s an inspiration to us all, how well he’s come back and played, and just how strong he is.”

Roslyn entered the title match off a close 4-3 win over Herricks on Tuesday in the semifinals, and when Solop won easily, followed shortly by the second doubles team of Brian Toh and Kyle Law grabbing a win, it looked like the Bulldogs might pull it off.

After all, Roslyn (14-3) had defeated Syosset in a team match earlier this season, so it knew it could be done.

But Syosset was able to rally to win at fourth doubles and third doubles, taking the lead, and Roslyn wasn’t able to recover.

“They just had a little more firepower today,” said Jannotte-Hinkley. “But I’m so proud of our group of seniors, six altogether, five of them in the starting lineup. They’re really special kids who had a great season.”

A sign of the culture Jannotte-Hinkley has built was seen in the alumni at the match, all staying connected to the program. The 2011 Roslyn team returned to the school and hit with the current squad, helping mentor them and keeping them connected to the program.

“She’s incredible in that she keeps the former players connected and is always there for the (current) team,” said Roslyn athletics director Mike Brostowski. “We’re very luicky to have her, and these great kids who come through the program.”

For Roslyn senior Cayden Shen, the entire season has felt like a battle, but he’s thrilled at how well his team fought.

“We know everyone’s gunning for us, and we were motivated to win as much as possible this season for Ethan and Drew,” Shen said. “We knew everyone on the team was going to battle, and today we battled but just came up a little bit short.”

Syosset advanced to play Commack in the Long Island Championship on June 3, with the winner advancing to states.

Three local singles players are competing in the state singles competition, which started on May 31: Roslyn’s Solop, Herricks’ Samarth Deepudass, and Manhasset’s Maxim Golubenko are all vying for a state title.

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