The return of Tom Layton and his assorted array of drop shots, slices and perfect placement led the Hunter’s Green Machine to a regular season ending 3-0 win over Arbor Greene Sunday morning.
Layton, who had been out most of the season with an injured hamstring, won his match with Marisa Martinez 6-2, 6-4 to officially qualify for sectionals. He will join the team in Daytona Beach May 20-22 as it seeks to make a good showing.
“He’s like a ballerina,” gushed Nini Torres.
“It’s like he’s walking on sunshine,” gasped Lara Slatniske.
“It’s like his hands are actually a souffle, so soft, so gentle,” Phuong Cotey said.
“Oh, SETTLE DOWN,” said captain John Cotey.
“It was great to be back,” said Layton, speaking in one direction but looking the other way.
At No. 1 doubles, the tandem of Sharon Patterson and John Slatniske proved one again to be a formidable combination, winning in a third set tiebreaker 6-2, 3-6, 10-2.
Patterson, who teamed up later in the day to finally finish winning the 3.5 mixed doubles club championship with Cotey, used her usual suitcase full of moonballs and precise deep balls to keep the opponents off balance.
It was the second straight win for the duo, who won last week at Harbour Island in the match that officially clinched the league title for the Machine.
Slatniske played some of his finest tennis in weeks, rushing the net when Patterson pushed the opponents back and then ferociously smashing winners to the back fence.
Slatniske also pulled off a couple miracle shots at the net, sticking his racquet out in self defense but getting the ball back in the court.
“I enjoy playing with him,” said Patterson. “He’s not quite the partner Cotey is, but you can tell he has studied Cotey’s game and is really starting to get better, like Cotey is. I hope Cotey keeps working with him because you can definitely see the changes.”
The day was not without some near tragedy, however.
In a spirited side match with the No. 3 Interbay line of Torres and Lara Slatniske, Cotey took a dangerous spill showing some of the hustle and grit he is known for. Despite tearing an ACL in his left knee, a gluteus maximus tendon and the catalytic converter in his right wrist, and his parter, wife Phuong Cotey, dropped a 7-5 decision.
“To beat the No. 3 line at Interbay would have been a career highlight, so sure, I’m a little sad about it,” John Cotey said. “But the injuries just slowed me down too much. I’m proud of the Green Machine though. It was a tremendous win today and so nice to be returning to sectionals.”