For only the third time in 38 years, the Mattituck High School girls tennis team has a new coach.
Coaching changes in the program are rare, at least in the modern era. Jim Christy had run the team for 33 years before handing over the reins to Mike Huey. After four years — and a 34-22 record — Huey has stepped down. Now the top job belongs to Cory Dolson.
”It’s definitely exciting,” said Dolson, hardly a stranger to the scene, having coached Mattituck’s junior varsity team for the last 12 years. “JV is an easygoing atmosphere. This is varsity. It counts. You’re fighting for championships. It definitely gets the juices going.”
A new coach is hardly the only change Mattituck (5-9 last year) has seen. For the first time in seven years, the Tuckers don’t have Liz Dwyer playing singles for them. “It’s unfortunate for us,” said Dolson.
Dwyer, The Suffolk Times’ 2017-18 Mattituck Female Athlete of the Year, had one of the greatest careers the team has seen, compiling a 56-18 record and having played first singles the last four years.
Not only is Dwyer gone, but the entire singles lineup from last year has moved on.
Six players with varsity experience are competing for the four singles spots, junior Kelsey Bundrick among them. Bundrick played second singles last year for Bishop McGann-Mercy, which closed after the school year.
“Having Kelsey is big,” Dolson said. He added, “She has the highest level of varsity experience on our team, so it’s going to be a tremendous benefit having her around.”
The others in the singles mix are juniors Ashley Perkins, Julie Kosmynka and Jessica Scheer, and seniors Annie Finnegan and Mia Slovak.
“We’re going to have to throw some girls in there and test things out and see what happens,” Dolson said. “Right now, to be honest with you, we’re just trying to figure out a lineup.”
Seniors Sarah Bihm, her twin sister Lauren Bihm, Claudia Hoeg, Katie Parks and Cat McGrath hope to be in that lineup.
Dolson is familiar with many of these players. “I’ve coached almost every single one of these girls for a number of years,” he said.
Mattituck made it to the playoffs for the sixth straight year in 2017, losing to Commack in a Suffolk County Team Tournament Round of 16 match.
This year the Tuckers have been dropped down to League VIII.
“Our goal is going to be to win League VIII,” Dolson said. “Why not?”
A league championship doesn’t seem likely this year for Southold/Greenport (2-10), but who knows about the near future?
If coach Mike Carver looks into a crystal ball, he might like what he sees. The First Settlers may have found the fountain of youth.
“We’re super young this year,” he said. “We’re definitely not aging. We have a couple of good years ahead of us.”
All of Southold’s starters from last year are back, most notably All-County first singles player Natalie Kopala. The freshman went 14-1.
“She opened some eyes last year,” Carver said. “She’s a very strong player. She’s going to be a force for the next four years. She plays a lot. I could just see her getting better and better.”
The rest of the singles lineup tentatively had sophomore Reese Thompson in the No. 2 slot, sophomore Kaia Rothman at No. 3 and senior Casie Vaccariello at No. 4.
Sophomore Danielle Henry could play singles or first doubles with freshman Ellie Alloway. The other projected doubles teams are sophomore Hannah DeSimone and senior Ally Boyle at second doubles, with juniors Julia Mejsak and Liz Garcia paired in the No. 3 position.
Rounding out the roster are junior Jessica Cruz and freshman Isabella Penney.
Carver said wins over Ross and Hampton Bays last year gave the Settlers a taste of winning and they liked it.
“We’re having a lot of fun at practice,” he said. “The girls are excited … If you can have fun and be successful, what more can you ask for?”
Photo caption: Kelsey Bundrick, who played second singles last year for Bishop McGann-Mercy, is now Mattituck’s most experienced singles player. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)