Brendan Henry made no excuses. He said he felt a shooting pain in his right forearm that made his fingers go numb and cramp closed midway through the second set. But he was fine after that, he said. Josh Levine had earned this.
After dropping the first set, Levine, a junior from Cold Spring Harbor, won the second set. And though Henry had recovered, Levine would have all the opportunity he needed.
"It could have gone either way," said Levine, who won the third set to complete a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory in the final of the Nassau individual boys tennis championship Saturday at Oceanside High School. "It was 5-4 in the second set and I closed it out. By the third set, I had that momentum."
Levine, the No. 2 seed, will make his second straight trip to the state tournament and, after coming in second place last year, is one of the favorites to take the top spot. Joining him will be Farmingdale's Henry, who came into the tournament unseeded, but ousted No. 1 Zach Morris in the semifinals, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
"I was making shots, going for shots and making them," Henry said. "I came out firing in the first five games. I was making every shot imaginable. In the last game , he broke [my serve], though."
Morris, of Garden City, defeated Herricks' Vihar Shah, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, to take the third and final spot in the state tournament.
In doubles, fourth-seeded J.J. Tauil and Dan Grinshteyn of Hewlett defeated Great Neck North's Doron Saraf and Jared Lewis, 6-3, 6-2. The winning duo, who have known each other since they were 10 and 9 years old, respectively, usually play singles, but decided to team up in Tauil's senior year.
Up 4-3 in the first set, Tauil and Grinshteyn broke serve to go up by two games. After that, Grinshteyn said, they never looked back.
"We played with a little bit of a chip on our shoulders," Grinshteyn said. Though good-humored, they believed they should have been seeded higher than fourth.
Nevertheless, they defeated top-seeded Kevin Katz and Stephen Peng, 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, in a semifinal.
It's all good practice, especially because Tauil has dreams of a state title.
"I've heard Nassau County does well in the state tournament," he said. "So why can't we?"
Katz and Peng fell to Cold Spring Harbor's Jon Paris and Conor Mullins, 7-5, 6-4, in the consolation. Paris and Mullins, ninth-graders, will be making their first trip to the state tournament.
Making their first trip, too, will be Saraf and Lewis, unseeded juniors who defeated Paris and Mullins, 6-3, 7-6 (5), in the other semifinal.
The two -- who basked in the sun as the final matches were completed -- offered nothing but smiles when talking about the day's accomplishments. Yes, the last match didn't go exactly as planned, but second place was nothing to scoff at.
"I think this is going to be pretty cool," Lewis said, laid out on the parking lot asphalt, hands behind his head. "We exceeded our expectations going in. We're completely satisfied."