SUFFOLK COUNTY TEAM TOURNAMENT, FIRST ROUND | PHANTOMS 4, TUCKERS 3
Perhaps Garrett Malave was biding his time, just waiting for the right moment to take charge of the tennis match. Perhaps he was simply adjusting to the sporadic wind, which sometimes played tricks with the ball.
Through the first four games of the first singles match, the Mattituck freshman traded points with Bayport-Blue Point senior Jeremy Morgenbesser. A double fault on game point by Morgenbesser allowed Malave to tie the score at two games apiece.
And then Malave made his move.
Malave finished the next game with a pair of blistering service aces and then won six of the next seven games after that. He raised the level of his play demonstrably and turned the tables in dramatic fashion. He seemed to exude confidence and enjoy playing as he put away thunderous winners with a flourish.
“Garrett has a tendency to do that,” Mattituck coach Mike Huey said. “He doesn’t start off really fast, and he goes for a lot of shots and usually makes a lot of mistakes. Once he gets into his rhythm … then he gets rolling.”
Malave outscored his opponent, 12-3, in the first three games of the second set before Morgenbesser recovered to take the next three games. Malave’s play levelled off a bit, but he still had enough to take the last three games for a 6-3, 6-3 win in 62 minutes. It was an impressive showing, no doubt, but Malave was unable to prevent No. 24 seed Mattituck from losing, 4-3, to ninth-seeded Bayport-Blue Point in the first round of the Suffolk County Team Tournament on Wednesday.
If there was a sense of déjà vu, it was understandable. It is the second time in three years that the Phantoms have handed Mattituck a first-round loss on their home courts.
Bayport-Blue Point (13-4), the League V runner-up, lived up to its reputation of having strong doubles teams. The Phantoms swept the three doubles contests, but it was also a key point from fourth singles that advances them into a quarterfinal tomorrow against No. 8 Islip (12-3), the League III champion.
Junior Matt Beyer’s 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Mattituck freshman Thomas Chatin at fourth singles was vital for Bayport-Blue Point, which has talent scattered throughout its lineup.
“That’s been the case with us all season,” Bayport-Blue Point coach Keith Scharfschwerdt said. “Our depth has been our strength, and everyone on the team plays at almost an equal level, so it carries us a little bit.”
The three doubles matches were all one-sided, two-set affairs. Perhaps that’s no surprise, considering that Bayport-Blue Point’s first and second doubles teams finished second and fourth, respectively, in the Conference III Tournament.
The first doubles duo of Tyler Grossé and Max Hoffman took care of Charles Hickox and Kevin Schwartz, 6-2, 6-1. Second doubles went to Lucas Jenks and Xavier Stickney, 6-1, 6-1 over James Rabkevich and Dan Salice. Grant Ferrante and Sean Gray posted a 6-2, 6-1 win over Nick Rabkevich and Tyler Rozhen.
With the doubles matches falling in Bayport-Blue Point’s favor, Mattituck (12-2) needed to sweep the four singles contests in order to prevail. The Tuckers came close as Malave, Parker Tuthill (6-2, 6-4 over Cory Zirkel) and Andrew Young (6-3, 6-1 over Jonny Keyes) triumphed.
“We almost did it,” Huey said. “Our top three singles played extremely well, and Thomas, he tried to grind it out, but [Beyer] was a little more steady.”
Playoff matches involve more pressure, with the finality of a season-ending loss, but that didn’t faze Tuthill.
“It’s a little more pressure, but I like playing with pressure,” he said. “It makes me feel better, pumped up.”
Playoffs or not, the hard-hitting Malave was typically aggressive — and successful — in his match. He produced 17 service aces and 10 winners.
“I just enjoyed myself out there. I had fun,” Malave said. “Once I broke through, I felt like I could keep on continuing to push, and it worked out.”
Bayport-Blue Point reached the playoffs for the fifth successive year, a testament to the team’s drive.
“They’re a fun, competitive bunch, and that’s what drives it, the intrasquad competition,” Scharfschwerdt said. “Everyone wants to beat somebody else in practice, and that’s what motivates them.”
Mattituck’s six-match win streak, which began following a loss to William Floyd, was snapped. Regardless, the Tuckers can reflect on a memorable year in which they won a third straight league championship.
“It was a good season,” Tuthill said. “I can’t wait for next year.”
Next year Mattituck will move up from League VIII to League VII, where the competition is stiffer and its young singles players will be tested.
“We’re going into a tougher league,” Malave said, “and that’s going to really challenge us.”