It was a perfect season — until the end.
The first loss of the year for the Mattituck High School girls tennis team came in its last match, a 5-2 defeat to Half Hollow Hills West in a Suffolk County Team Tournament first-round contest in Dix Hills on Tuesday.
Not that the result was surprising, though. Hills West (14-1), the tournament’s No. 2 seed and county champion for the past two years, was heavily favored against No. 18 Mattituck (17-1).
“I thought it was going to be tough,” said Kate Freudenberg, a junior who plays for Mattituck’s first doubles team along with Molly Kowalski. “The points were a lot closer than I thought they would be, so I’m pretty happy about that, and I thought we played well even though we lost.”
Speaking of a season in which the Tuckers captured their first league championship in four years, Freudenberg said: “It’s definitely been the best season I’ve played yet. I’m really proud of everybody, and I thought since we worked hard, it really paid off.”
And what a season it was for the Tuckers. Coming off a losing 2010 campaign in League VII, they rebounded with the League VIII title and an undefeated regular season. It brought back memories of the 1982 Mattituck team that went 18-1, with its sole loss coming to Port Jefferson in a county semifinal.
Statistically speaking, this was one of the best seasons the Tuckers have ever had. Every player in the lineup had a winning record. The Tuckers dominated most of their opponents, outscoring them by 117 1/2-14 1/2. They won eight matches by 7-0 scores and another eight by 6-1 scores.
“It was quite remarkable how few points we lost,” said Mattituck coach Jim Christy, who is in his 31st year as the team’s coach. “What makes it special is you literally see that every girl contributed. They had banner seasons.”
Kate Mangiamele, who played second doubles with Nora Zuhoski, said, “I think we just had a lot of motivation.”
The third doubles team of twins Molly and Siobhan Nolan as well as third singles player Kyra Martin did not lose a set the entire league season.
“We all got along real well, which sort of motivated everyone more, and we all worked really hard,” Kowalski said. “We did well and we all had a lot of fun together.”
And then there was Erica Bundrick, Mattituck’s first singles player. She completed her senior season with a sparkling 21-4 record.
“Erica’s season was excellent,” Christy said. “Really, what it came down to was being able to play the 3-3 points.”
Bundrick had defeated the recently crowned county singles champion, Nicole Daniggelis of Smithtown East, on Friday when the Tuckers won an outbracket match, 6-1. Daniggelis had defeated Zenat Roshizada of Hills West in the county final, 6-3, 4-1. Roshizada retired with a leg injury, according to Newsday.
Roshizada was not in the lineup Tuesday, but then again, the Colts didn’t need her.
Hills West picked up singles victories from Sarah Han, Lauren Salzano and Missy Cipolla. They all won in two sets: Han 6-4, 6-2 over Olivia Cardinale, Salzano 6-2, 6-1 over Martin, and Cipolla 6-2, 6-3 over Erin Pozzolano.
Bundrick and the Nolan sisters provided the Tuckers with their only points on the day.
In Cipolla’s fourth singles match, she outpointed Pozzolano, 58-42, and made only six unforced errors to 14 by Pozzolano.
Pozzolano, one of Mattituck’s eight seniors, recorded 10 service aces. Her consistent serving (89 percent on first serves and 90 percent on second serves) enabled her to pull to within a game of Cipolla after falling behind by 4-1 in the second set.
“We knew they were going to be tough, but we all played the best that we can,” said Kowalski.
The Colts, who shared the League I title with rival Half Hollow Hills East, will play host to either The Ross School or Bishop McGann-Mercy in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Tuckers may now reflect on a memorable season.
“I thought we would be good,” Christy said. “What I didn’t anticipate was how well these girls were going to compete and how focused and competitive they were. That surprised me.”