Tennis tournament participants. (Photos from the Port Washington Athletic Department Instagram | @portwashad)

Memorial And Fundraiser Tennis Tournament

Port remembers the Roslyn middle schoolers who lost their lives in May

By Daniel Greilsheimer

As one of the most difficult Nassau County tennis seasons in recent years comes to a close, honoring the memory of Ethan Falkowitz and Drew Hassenbein remains a clear focus.

On June 12, the Port Washington boys varsity tennis team held the Ethan Falkowitz and Drew Hassenbein Memorial Teacher/Player Doubles Tournament at the Schreiber tennis courts. Proceeds were donated to a scholarship fund in the names of Falkowitz and Hassenbein established by the Roslyn School District.

Falkowitz and Hassenbein, both 14 year-old Roslyn students, tragically passed away in a head-on vehicular collision at 10:21 p.m. on May 3. Celebrating a convincing victory over rival, and eventual Nassau County team champion Syosset, their car was struck by 34-year-old Armandeep Singh, who was drunk and driving on the other side of the road at the time. Falkowitz and Hassenbein were traveling with two teammates, ages 16 and 17, both of whom were taken to a local hospital and have since been released.

Singh was arraigned the following day, May 4, with hundreds from the Roslyn community packing the courthouse. The Nassau tennis community was similarly heartbroken and came together quickly to support the afflicted families and friends.

“The tennis world on Long Island is extremely close. The geographical proximity of Port Washington and Roslyn made it hurt even more,” said boys and girls varsity tennis coach Shane Helfner. “I’m proud of our guys for all being there for one another to help us get through it. It doesn’t matter how many years you coach… Nothing prepares you for something like that.”

Moments of silence and charity events were held across Long Island to honor Falkowitz and Hassenbein. Their initials, “EF” and “DH,” have been featured prominently at many matches in the latter parts of the season.

“The deaths of Drew and Ethan cast a profound impact on our team this season,” said senior captain Reed Paltrow. “To show our support, we wore headbands with Drew and Ethan’s initials during our match against Roslyn, and their memories served as a constant source of inspiration throughout the remainder of the season.”

Student and teacher doubles match.

The Port boys varsity team has held a doubles tournament in which an athlete pairs up with a teacher in the past, most recently in 2019, as a fundraiser for Aceing Autism, a non-profit which provides free equipment, expertise and court-time for those with autism. This year’s tournament included both junior varsity and varsity players, as well as both middle school and high school teachers.

“We may go back to autism awareness next year, but this year felt right to do a memorial tournament for Drew and Ethan and our neighbors in Roslyn,” said Helfner.

Prize packages—ranging from four training sessions at Port Fitness worth $240 to adult tennis lessons from Sportime Roslyn to a $250 dinner at Gatsby’s in Roslyn—were raffled away to community members at the event. The tickets sold amounted to $5,000 in donations.

“I reached out to the Roslyn tennis coach to ask her what would be the most meaningful donation that we can make to help them,” said Helfner. “She said that the Roslyn School District just started a scholarship in the name of the two boys and… [it] would be a huge help to have money donated toward that.”

The tournament proved to be a huge success, with the team of sophomore James Kott and high school social studies teacher Alexander Sepulvida coming in first place.

“Winning the tennis tournament with Mr. Sepulvida meant a lot to me because it reminded me of playing doubles with Ethan at UTR tennis tournaments, and that thought in the back of my head fueled me to put in my all in the final,” said Kott. “It was truly a privilege to honor Drew and Ethan.”

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