GOSHEN — When Gabe and Lucas Castillo-Sanchez stepped onto the court for their first-ever competitive match, a photo of Washingtonville tennis coach Matt Anastasi was taped to a chair on each side of the net.

A poll was started on the Washingtonville team’s group chat Thursday night, asking which player Anastasi should sit with following the brothers’ quarterfinal victories in the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament.

Lucas, a seventh-grader, won the poll. But Anastasi couldn’t pick a side, so he watched from the spectator seating high above the courts at Match Point Tennis.

If Gabe, a junior, was going to defend his OCIAA title, he would have to get past Lucas to do it. And Lucas, 13, wasn’t backing down, making his brother work for every point.

Gabe’s matured game and talent prevailed as it has against every opponent he’s faced this season. The opportunity to play his brother is a moment that Castillo-Sanchez won’t forget on his way to a second consecutive singles championship.

“It was a little different just mentally because you have to get around the fact that this is somebody that you know better than anyone else,” said Gabe, who defeated Lucas 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinal. Castillo-Sanchez would go on to defeat Newburgh Free Academy’s Troy Steiner by identical scores in the final.

“I’m really happy that he got this far and I got this far to play against him. He worked hard. He’s another player out there. I’m not going to go easier on him. He played well.”

“It was something new,” Lucas said. “It was fun. I really enjoyed it. It was a new experience for me.”

After Gabe captured his first OCIAA title one year ago, there was an uncertainty in the Section 9 tennis community about whether he would return to high school tennis. Most players of Castillo-Sanchez’s caliber opt to play only United States Tennis Association tournaments.

However, there was little doubt in Castillo-Sanchez’s mind that he would play for Washingtonville again.

“Honestly, I just did it because I wanted to be part of the team again,” said Castillo-Sanchez, who is 15-0 this season. “I wanted to play for the school. I thought that was important. More tennis isn't bad.”

Castillo-Sanchez played in 12 of Washingtonville’s 14 matches. He helped Washingtonville end Cornwall’s Section 9-record 91-match winning streak. Castillo-Sanchez also traveled to Spain on spring break and Georgia and Texas on weekends for high-level tournaments.

“He's been right with the team practicing and playing,” Anastasi said. “It's been really cool to see him commit and balance school — his grades are great — the team and himself.”

Castillo-Sanchez’s return was also fueled by his finish last season. He advanced to the quarterfinal in his first state tournament. He believes his game is ready to take the next step.

“I think I can go even further this year,” Castillo-Sanchez said. “That's 100 percent why I played (high school) tennis for another year.”

 

sinterdonato@th-record.com

Twitter: @salinterdonato