When a high school girls tennis team like Mattituck goes into the start of preseason practice with virtually its entire lineup in place, that’s a pretty comfortable position to be in.
Of course, things aren’t going to be all peaches and cream for the Tuckers this year. That’s because the League VIII champions have been promoted to League VII, which coach Mike Huey believes could be the strongest league in Suffolk County.
League VII is a different world. It produced last year’s county championship team, William Floyd, which the Tuckers will have to tangle with along with The Ross School, East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson, Southampton, Westhampton Beach and Eastport/South Manor.
“They’re all good teams,” said Huey.
The Tuckers aren’t too bad, either. They didn’t have a single senior on last year’s 13-2 team, which won its sixth league championship in 15 years.
Their singles lineup is imposing. All four starters are back in place, including Liz Dwyer, an all-division sophomore who put up a 12-3 record last year.
“She’s playing very, very well and she’s added a lot of power to her game,” Huey said. “She’s going to need that going up against some of the better players.”
The next three top singles players — sophomore Emily Mowdy (14-1), senior Julie Krudop (12-3) and sophomore Drew Hahn (13-2) — were all-league selections.
The first doubles team of seniors Courtney Penny and Anna Kowalski remains intact. They went 13-2 and were all-division.
“All those girls achieved a lot of success last year,” Huey said. “A lot of them worked very hard in the off-season and they got very much better.”
Although the second doubles team remained up in the air, it looked as if senior Eva Gains and junior Jacey Lengyel had the inside track.
Where things really get interesting, though, is at third doubles, where seven players are competing for the two spots. Among them are seniors Kim Scheer and Emily Gatz. The other candidates have all been brought up from the junior varsity team: sophomore Alexandra Talbot, junior Cassie Nine, junior Katherine Celic, sophomore Joy Davis and junior Hannah Prokop.
“There’s a lot of parity there,” said Huey.
It’s an encouraging situation for the Tuckers, balanced somewhat by the understanding that unlike League VIII, which the Tuckers dominated, the competition in League VII will be stiff.
“I’m loving the challenge,” Huey said. “Our girls are also.”
Huey said he likes the approach his players take. “They have the right attitude,” he said. “They love to come play. They love to come to practice. They love to work.”
Mattituck dropped its first match of the season Wednesday against William Floyd, 6-1.
Twenty-three days, that’s it. That’s the length of Southold/Greenport’s League VIII season, which was to start yesterday with a home match against Center Moriches and to conclude Sept. 25 in Riverhead.
It will be a challenging month, no doubt, for the Clippers, who went 0-12 last year.
“We’re trying to build a tennis tradition, which is so difficult,” coach Howie Geismar said. “We really don’t have girls who focus on tennis in this district.”
The Clippers headed into the season with a singles lineup that was expected to consist of Willow Wilcenski, Sarah Janazzo, Daisy Rymer and Emma Alvarez. They are all juniors.
Wilcenski, an all-league player, is battling with Janazzo for the first singles position. The two alternated at the top spot last year.
Two other juniors, Althea Mignone and Grace Breuer, will likely form the first doubles team. A pair of newcomers, seniors Paige Messana and Julia Schade, are projected to play second doubles.
Challenge matches were still to be played earlier this week and the third doubles team was not set. Geismar has a crop of underclassmen to choose from: returning sophomores Rebecca Dickerson, Julia Kujawski, Dominika Steskol and Alexandra Apadula, and freshmen Ally Boyle, Bryanna Bay and Casie Vaccariello.
Geismar said the biggest difference in his team this year is the players’ maturity level.
“The kids are all matured,” he said. “We’re a year older, a year wiser and looking for better things. We’re looking forward to making some progress and having a good year.”
Photo: Liz Dwyer, Mattituck’s all-division first singles player, went 12-3 as a freshman last year. (Credit: Garret Meade, file)