Ever ready for a challenge, the Mattituck High School boys tennis team has a big one this coming season. It’s called League VII.
For the past three years, the Tuckers have proven themselves to be the crème de la crème of League VIII. They have three straight league championships (nine overall) to prove it.
In Suffolk County, the boys tennis leagues are based on geography and ability. The difference between League VIII and League VII is substantial.
“The likelihood of us winning another league championship is not great,” admitted coach Mike Huey.
On the other hand, Huey noted, the tougher competition should make his players better. “Now we’re going to play with the big boys,” he said. “I think we’ll rise to the challenge.”
More often than not, the Tuckers rose to the challenge last year. They swept through all 12 of their league matches and reached the playoffs for the eighth straight year. For the second time in three years, Mattituck’s postseason ended on Bayport-Blue Point’s tennis courts. In the first round of the Suffolk County Team Tournament, Mattituck was swept in doubles by Bayport-Blue Point and lost, 4-3. The Tuckers finished with a 12-2 record.
It was quite a season for the Tuckers, though, particularly for their top three singles players, who all return. Garrett Malave (15-1), a sophomore at first singles; Parker Tuthill (13-1), a sophomore at second singles; and Andrew Young (14-1), a junior at third singles, are talented players, regardless of the league. Malave was an All-Division choice last year while Tuthill and Young both made All-League.
The All-Division first doubles team of Charles Hickox and Kevin Schwartz, both seniors, remains intact. Three other seniors — Tyler Rozhen, Jake Nolan and Nick Rabkevich — played doubles last year.
Ty Bugdin, a freshman, and Joe Macaluso, a senior, have been promoted from the junior varsity team.
Asked what his biggest concern was, Huey didn’t hesitate in providing a one-word answer: “Weather.”
Because of ice on the Mattituck High School tennis courts, the team had been holding its first practices indoors, doing fitness work and hitting balls against a gym wall.
“It’s very limited,” Huey said. “As a matter of fact, I can’t stand it.”
As far as the weather is concerned, Southold/Greenport has been remarkably fortunate. Despite the fact that huge piles of snow and ice surround the tennis courts at Southold High School like a barricade, the courts themselves have been free of snow. Thus, Monday marked the fifth day in a row that the Clippers (5-7 last year) were able to practice outside, something other teams haven’t been able to do.
“That’s a huge help,” coach Andrew Sadowski said. “For some reason we have no snow on [the courts], and I think it’s just because the wind blew it off. That’s just dumb luck.”
It appears as if the Clippers are in a better situation than they were last year, with more numbers and more depth to work with. Yet, at the same time, there are plenty of question marks to be addressed, such as four starting singles slots and two of the three doubles teams in the lineup. Southold/Greenport’s All-County first doubles team of seniors Will Richter and Dylan Stromski is back.
“Everything else is up in the air,” said Sadowski.
Two seniors who were doubles partners last year, Michael Shade and C. P. Cook, will probably play singles. Brian Hallock, who missed last season with a broken arm, returns for his senior season and will play doubles. It’s uncertain whether Gary Prieto, a senior, will play singles or doubles. Another senior, Drew Sacher, is a likely doubles candidate. Greg Quist, a junior, is in the mix for a singles spot. Tom Messina, a junior, is another possibility.
Sadowski said he is seeing more consistency from more players. “Dylan stands out as a pure tennis player,” he said. “C. P. Cook has very good strokes. And then I have Richter and Hallock, who get to everything. They’re fearless. They’re not afraid to play net.”
Much needs to be sorted out before the Clippers open their season at Longwood on March 24. Complicating matters have been other school activities that take players away from practice.
“We’ve had five, six guys not here,” Sadowski said. “Then we’ll have a few days of practice, and we’ll have five guys not here again. They’re all part of the whole puzzle. Everyone will be here for all our matches, but we just have to figure out who’s going to play who and in what lineup.”