When Mattituck High School coach Mike Huey says he has a young boys tennis team, he isn’t kidding or exaggerating.
The Tuckers have not one, not two, but three eighth-graders slated to be regulars this Suffolk County League VIII season. And that’s not to forget that Huey also has a ninth-grader in the mix.
“We lost a lot,” Huey said about graduation hitting the team hard.
But Huey looks at his team’s plight as a glass being half full. Young doesn’t necessarily mean raw and inexperienced.
“Little boys grow up,” he said. “I’m hoping that will be the case. I see the level of play rising, so I am happy about that.
“Just because you’re not experienced doesn’t mean you’re not good. The skill can still carry you through.”
The Tuckers have been working out and practicing since March 5. The warm weather has helped out a lot.
“We’ve had good weather and had people out on the court, so things have been good,” Huey said.
Life could get even better for the Tuckers if the younger players continue to improve and progress.
Huey plans to rely on a pair of eighth-graders to anchor the team at No. 1 and No. 2 singles — Garrett Malave and Parker Tuthill, respectively.
“I’d like to see the person who’s going to beat him,” Huey said of Malave. “He’s tough. He’s tough. In our league, he will do very, very well.”
Freshman Andrew Young should fill the third spot. A third eighth-grader, Thomas Chatin, should take the No. 4 singles position.
One reason Huey is using several junior high school players is because there is no middle school boys tennis team.
Now, that’s not to say the Tuckers aren’t without several experienced players, particularly in doubles. Seniors Stefan Kuehn and Austin Tuthill, Parker’s older brother, are expected to be the top doubles tandem.
Another senior, Graham Homan, whom Huey called a “valuable doubles player” last year, is expected to “fit into the lineup nicely.”
Other returning upperclassmen include Joel Pfaff and Kevin Reyer, who will work as a double team, Jeff Strider and Casey Ciamaricone. “They were good players from last year,” Huey said.
The Tuckers certainly have depth because Huey can choose from five other players to boost the side. That includes sophomores Steve Urwand, who probably will play second doubles, Kevin Schwartz, who most likely will take on the second or third doubles role, and James Rabkevich, who is up from the junior varsity team.
Rounding out the squad are junior Doug Beebe and senior Matt Jacob, whom Huey said “has been awesome for team morale.”
So will something else, although that will take a complete team effort. As coach of the defending League VIII champions, Huey hopes to duplicate last season’s performance.
“That’s our goal — to win the league championship,” he said.
Given Mattituck’s success through the years, that certainly is not out of the question. What the Tuckers have going for them is a winning tradition, having captured several League VII crowns and last year’s League VIII title.
“We’ve always been contenders through the years,” Huey said. “We’ve always been a solid school size-wise. … We’ve done a good job.”
As he puts the finishing touches on the pre-season, Southold/Greenport coach Andrew Sadowski knows where his team’s priorities lie.
“I’m very pleased with the work rate,” he said. “They get along very well. In terms of a cohesive unit, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
It will be up to the team to determine how much fun Southold/Greenport has.
Sadowski has decided the first three singles spots — senior Josh Robinson (first), junior Devyn Standish (second) and junior David O’Day (third).
Sophomores Will Richter and Dylan Stromski will man the first doubles position, while fellow 10th-graders Gary Prieto and Brian Hallock are the second doubles partners.
The rest of the starting lineup has not been sorted out yet, but Sadowski figured team challenges will determine who will play, at least in the early going.
Southold, which calls Cochran Park and Tasker Park home, finished 5-7 last season and Sadowski realized how close the team was to having a winning season in 2011.
“We were very young last year,” he said. “We had quite a few matches that would have gone either way.
“We thought the experience they got will end with them winning that 40-40 game.”
Sadowski will find out soon enough as Southold opens its League VIII season at Riverhead on Wednesday.