On Graduation Sunday night (6/11), the Senior-led Flatbush Boys Tennis Team put their mark in the record books with a down-to-the-wire 3-2 win over the Heschel Heat in the Finals of the 2017 MYHSAL Championship Playoffs at the indoor courts at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY.
The Flatbush Boys Tennis teams have made the playoffs in each of the last 4 seasons, falling short of the ultimate goal the past three years. All that changed on Sunday. The effort put forth from across the roster was outstanding, with each individual player leaving everything he had out on the court, and it paid off. The win marked the first time a Flatbush Boys Tennis Team has every brought the League championship trophy back to the halls of the Brooklyn school.
With the Falcons having finished in the top spot in the League’s Eastern Division and the Heat having taken the top spot in the West, it set up to be a close contest, and the teams did not disappoint. From the gallery above, the group of classmates, teammates (including singles player Aaron Harari, who played admirably for the Falcons when teammates were unavailable due to injury), family members, coaches and administrators had a bird’s eye view of the proceedings. Cheering on every made point and every won game; encouraging players after each lost point and each failed game. It was the intense atmosphere expected in a championship contest.
All the sets got underway at the same time, save for one – 3rd Singles, as Flatbush’s designee for that position, Meyer Kassin, was delayed. That delay would prove key, as it would cause it to be the final contest to finish.
Playing next to each other, Meyer Tawil at 1st Singles and Joe BenHaim at 2nd Singles each had their matches begin to go in favor of one of the players early on. At 1st Singles, Tawil was up against it from the start in facing an opponent for Heschel who is nationally ranked in his age group. The Heat hitter showed why, absorbing the power of Tawil’s strong serve and deftly returning his power drives. Meanwhile, at 2nd Singles, BenHaim employed the same tactics that led to victory in the semifinals. He continually kept the ball in play, enticing his opponent into making the errors. It worked masterfully. In the end, the two singles sets finished as they began, as Tawil dropped a 10-2 decision at 1st Singles while BenHaim brought home the first point for Flatbush with a 10-4 victory at 2nd Singles.
On a pair of neighboring courts, the two doubles matches were also underway. The First Doubles pairing of Isaac Sued and Michael Dayan took an early lead and slowly began to pull away, eventually securing Flatbush point number two by a score of 10-5.
The 2nd Doubles set was not to be decided so easily. The Flatbush team of Sam Torgueman and Ricky Esses was in a dogfight from the start, with the Heat pair having taken the early lead and the Falcon duo playing catch-up all night long. Heschel pulled ahead 9-7, and was on the brink of taking the set when the Flatbush team dug deep, winning the next two games to even the set at 9-9. Teammates and fans filled the small gallery, with some spilling out on to the adjacent court to support their respective doubles team. Heschel’s pair was feeling the pressure, but the effort to tie the set proved to be too much to push past for the Falcons. Heschel took the next to games, winning by a score of 11-9 and deadlocking the Finals at 2 games apiece.
All eyes were now squarely on the final remaining contest – 3rd Singles. This was only the third set played all season long for Kassin, who missed much of the season with a wrist injury. He was able to win his semifinal match, but he was not really tested there. How would he hold up in a tight match? Kassin dropped the opening game, but came back to take the next two for the early 2-1 lead. He eventually extended his cushion to two games, and midway through held a slight 6-4 advantage. With Kassin serving, holding serve would really put the pressure on Heschel. But he gave up a 40-0 lead, watching his Heat counterpart battle back to take the game and close the gap to 1. It would progress that way into the night, with Kassin breaking his opponent, then taking a big lead on his own serve only to falter and see Heschel break right back.
At 8-7, Kassin broke serve again for a 9-7 lead and move to the cusp of victory. Serving for the championship, Kassin again held an advantage, at 40-15, but could not close out his opponent. Heschel staved off three match points and eventually took the game, closing the score to 9-8. It was now Heschel’s serve, and again Kassin moved to the brink, with another 40-15 advantage. And again, Heschel battled back. Kassin would eventually face two game points that would have left the set tied. For his part, Heschel’s player had come back from another 3 match points. With both players clearly exhausted, and with everyone in the gallery on edge with each point, Kassin won the next deuce point to set up his 8th match point. With the two combatants smacking away at the ball, Kassin induced an angle shot from his opponent which landed just wide of the sideline. Smacking a forehand winner as he made the “out” call, Kassin raised his hands in triumph, only to have his call vociferously challenged by the Heschel coach. Line calls were at issue the entire set, with the crowd overhearing the coach tell his Heat player at one point, “when in doubt, call it out” – not the most sportsmanlike of approaches.Though clearly out, the players agreed to replay the point. With everyone on the edges of their seats, Kassin needed only two returns to hit a forehand winner passing his opponent for the final point of the match.
There was no doubt. The Flatbush Falcons were champions of the MYHSAL tennis world!
Afterwards, while still basking in the glow of his players’ achievement, Head Coach Mike Gelber remarked, “This is what a championship match should be like. The contest going down to the wire, with the players slugging it out on the court. Surviving, winning, will be with these boys for the rest of their lives. I could not be more proud!”