They were expected to compete for the league championship, but the Huntington High School boys’ tennis team’s senior contingent was never given the opportunity after the COVID-19 pandemic erupted and cut the season short after only four days.
The Blue Devils and head coach Jamie Fishlow thought the senior laden squad was well positioned to make a run for the league title, especially after two-time Suffolk singles champ Jack Flores returned to the fold after playing in USTA tournaments last year.
In addition to Flores, the senior contingent includes Matt Girimonti, Andrew Knowles, Ryan Knowles, Justin Lokos, John Segreti and Jason Verville. The seven seniors are all disappointed they won’t have one final season together or the chance to compete for the league title.
“I really enjoyed the chance to play tennis with my friends and to work with Coach Fishlow,” Andrew Knowles said. “We were definitely looking forward to this season since most of us are seniors, so it’s too bad it didn’t happen. I’m hoping some of us will be able to find time to play in the summer.”
Fishlow and junior varsity coach Robert Gilmor III were looking forward to working with the players and trying to win the league crown. With Flores returning and with so many seniors in the lineup, the Blue Devils appeared to have a very strong team this spring.
“Being a member of the tennis team has been a privilege,” Girimonti said. “Coach Fishlow and my teammates have shown me how to work hard and have supported me every step of the way. We always encourage each other on and off the court, which is a bond I will cherish for a long time. I’m sad to lose the season, but fortunately I have learned and grown a lot over the years.”
Flores has been on the varsity for six years. He won county singles titles as a freshman and sophomore and competed in the state tournament both years. As junior, he opted to play on the club circuit, looking to improve his USTA ranking. He returned to the high school’s Coach Cupp Courts complex as a senior and had his sights set on county and state championships.
“Due to prior tennis training, I had the unusual experience and privilege of playing first singles for varsity tennis since seventh grade,” Flores said. “For me, playing tennis for Huntington has always been about the team. I made really close relationships with Coach Fishlow, Coach Gilmor and volunteer Coach [Brian] Marek. They valued each player equally and supported us in every match regardless of the outcome. They looked out for me during the county and state tournaments and were there for me when I needed someone to talk to. I was proud to represent Huntington when I wore the uniform and competed the best I could for the team. I was pumped to compete with the Blue Devil team during my senior year and go for the county and state titles. Although the season was canceled, I am grateful for all the years I was able to play and hope to leave an inspiration for future Blue Devil tennis players and athletes.”
The Huntington boys’ tennis team has traditionally been a fun-loving group and the current squad is no different, especially the seniors. But while they all love to have a good time, the teenagers are incredibly competitive when they step on the court.
“Being on the team for the past four years under Coach Fishlow and Coach Gilmor has truly been on honor,” Verville said. “Their passion for the game was unmatched and they helped me grow as both a person and an athlete. Coach Fishlow could sometimes be tough, but he helped me to become a better athlete and competitor, win or lose. I made so many friends on the team and it was always enjoyable throughout the four years.”
When the season was placed on hiatus before the first week of practices had even concluded, none of the players imagined that the current health pandemic would have led to Section XI cancelling the spring schedule.
“Throughout my high school career the Blue Devil tennis team has been a huge part of my life,” Segreti said. “My teammates are some of the hardest workers I know and both Coach Fishlow and Coach Gilmor are some of the most exceptional coaches I have had the pleasure to train with. It is a shame that this year the season has been cancelled. I am very upset that I cannot work with the team for my final year.”
As they drive by the Coach Cupp Courts complex at the high school, each of the seniors thinks about what might have been had the COVID-19 pandemic not descended upon the United States.
“It’s been a pleasure to have played on the Blue Devils tennis team for all four of my years at the high school,” Ryan Knowles said. “I was eager to finish out my time at Huntington with a strong senior season, so I’m disappointed that I was not able to participate in it one last time due to the ongoing situation with COVID-19. Coach Fishlow was kind enough to visit each of the seniors individually and I was touched by our meeting, so it is equally sad that I cannot repay him with the same commitment on the court. Instead, I look forward to taking all the positive experiences I’ve gained from my time on the team as I continue playing tennis in the future.”
None of the seniors will ever forget the time spent on the court with their teammates and coaches. Each of them has represented Huntington well.
“Excellence, sportsmanship, friendship and leadership are just some of the characteristics that make up the Huntington tennis program,” Lokos said. “Whether it’s continuing friendships on and off the court or training as hard as possible in practice. With the support of Coach Fishlow and Coach Gilmor anything is possible. I’ve learned so many important lessons from them that continue to enhance my tennis game and life. I am so grateful to have been part of the team throughout my years at Huntington.”