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04/08/16 8:57pm
04/08/2016 8:57 PM

Shoreham-Wading River tennis player Chris Kuhnle 040816

As one might expect of a top high school tennis player, Chris Kuhnle brings many weapons with him onto the court. For one thing, there is his impressive shot-making ability. And his knack for returning shots like a machine can sap the spirit out of an opponent.

Perhaps just as importantly, the Shoreham-Wading River senior can do something else: He can adjust his game.
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05/11/15 5:11pm
05/11/2015 5:11 PM
Mattituck junior Garrett Malave returning a shot during the Division IV semifinal. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

Mattituck junior Garrett Malave returning a shot during his Division IV semifinal against Shoreham-Wading River junior Chris Kuhnle. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

SUFFOLK COUNTY DIVISION IV CHAMPIONSHIPS

Chris Kuhnle said it wasn’t easy. The scores may suggest otherwise, but Kuhnle said winning the Suffolk County Division IV singles championship on Monday was hard work, something he is not a stranger to.

Hard work, Kuhnle said, is what has brought his tennis game to where it is. The Shoreham-Wading River High School junior, the top-seeded player in the division tournament, reached the final for the second year in a row. The only difference is this time he was the one presented with the keepsake tournament bracket that goes to the champion. (more…)

05/15/14 5:54pm
05/15/2014 5:54 PM
Mattituck's Andrew Young (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

Mattituck’s Andrew Young (Credit: Garret Meade, file)

SUFFOLK COUNTY TEAM TOURNAMENT | HURRICANES 6, TUCKERS 1

For a high school boys tennis team with the nickname Hurricanes, the setting was appropriate.

The wind was gusting unpredictably, as it often does at Westhampton Beach High School’s tennis courts, making it a challenge for the players on Thursday. Swirling wind is nothing new to the Hurricanes, however. They are used to it and have learned how to deal with it. (more…)

05/15/13 6:02pm
05/15/2013 6:02 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck first doubles player Kevin Schwartz returning a shot during the Tuckers' first-round playoff loss to Bayport-Blue Point.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck first doubles player Kevin Schwartz returning a shot during the Tuckers’ first-round playoff loss to Bayport-Blue Point.

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.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck junior Charles Hickox serving during his first doubles match against Bayport-Blue Point.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck junior Charles Hickox serving during his first doubles match against Bayport-Blue Point.

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.”

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04/08/13 6:08pm
04/08/2013 6:08 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's first singles player, Garrett Malave, ran his record to 4-0 on Monday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s first singles player, Garrett Malave, ran his record to 4-0 on Monday.

TUCKERS 7, BLUE WAVES 0

Like updated computer software or the latest release of a video game, the 2013 version of Garrett Malave, the tennis player, can be advertised as bigger and better.

It’s fun to watch Malave play tennis — unless you’re the player he’s playing against.

Malave, a freshman in his second year as Mattituck’s first singles player, is one of the better players in Suffolk County and quite possibly the best in League VIII. Physical maturity has something to do with that.

“Little boys grow up,” said Mattituck coach Mike Huey.

And young players grow into their game.

Malave said he has worked on his footwork and is doing more bending to return low shots. The results so far speak for themselves. Malave, along with two of the team’s other top three singles players, Parker Tuthill and Andrew Young, all raised their records to 4-0 Monday with wins in the Tuckers’ 7-0 defeat of visiting Riverhead.

As expected, Malave was impressive, using 17 service aces and 14 winners to help him to a 6-0, 6-2 win over eighth grader Jens Summerlin in a first-singles match that was completed in 43 minutes. Malave limited Summerlin to only 5 points in the first set, which was over in 15 minutes.

Putting 86 percent of his second serves in play, Malave committed only three double faults.

Summerlin, who earned Riverhead’s top singles position after senior Seth Conrad sprained an ankle, has had an eye-opening experience. Monday’s match was only his second at No. 1 singles, and it was an education for him. He said he had never played against a player of Malave’s caliber before.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead eighth grader Jens Summerlin has worked his way to the first singles position following an ankle injury to senior Seth Conrad.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead eighth grader Jens Summerlin has worked his way to the first singles position following an ankle injury suffered by senior Seth Conrad.

“He plays very well, a lot of topspin on his balls, and his serve was just outrageous,” Summerlin said. “I could barely handle it.”

To his credit, Summerlin produced some nice shots of his own, and won back-to-back games in the second set to pull to within 3-2. But Malave’s quality was too much for the young Riverheader.

“He’s grown up, and he’s getting bigger, stronger and faster, and he’s making those adjustments,” Huey said of Malave. “As you can see, he doesn’t get cheated on his swing. He’s going for broke on every single shot.”

Plus, Malave has something else in his favor. He has talented teammates in Tuthill and Young, who give him good competition in practice.

“They have the ability to play Garrett tough, so every practice is a challenging practice,” Huey said. “He doesn’t get any days off. He’s got to work hard and he’s pushed every single day, and that makes you match tough.”

Tuthill and Young turned in two-set wins as well. Tuthill, playing second singles, blanked Nick Toharz, 6-0, 6-0, and Young beat Steve Velasquez, 6-1, 6-0.

Thomas Chatin (3-1) brought Mattituck (4-0 overall and in League VIII) a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Dillon Fava Wiggins at fourth singles.

The two-set theme continued in the three doubles matches, which were also swept by Mattituck: Charles Hickox and Kevin Schwartz defeated Mike Haynia and Kyle Helgans, 6-1, 6-2; James Rabkevich and Steve Urwand recorded a 6-0, 6-2 win over Kurt Divan and Edgar Garcia; and Nick Rabkevich and Tyler Rozhen downed Nick Giannillo and Jordy Perez, 6-0, 6-0.

Mattituck was coming off a significant 4-3 triumph over Longwood on Friday, a result that gave the defending league champion the inside track on this year’s league crown.

“That was huge for us,” said Huey.

Nick Rabkevich, playing in his first varsity match, and Rozhen provided the decisive point, getting the better of Longwood’s Jon Cruz and Matt Covati, 6-3, 6-2, at third doubles. Malave did his part that day, scoring a 6-1, 6-2 result over Indranel Mitra.

The temporary loss of Conrad is one Riverhead (0-4, 0-4) can ill afford. The team’s three returning players from last year are the only ones with any prior tennis-playing experience at all.

Riverhead coach Bob Lum said he hoped to have Conrad back in a week or so. In the meantime, Summerlin is getting a tennis education at first singles.

“He is talented,” Lum said of Summerlin, whose older brother Adrian and older sister Robyn both played for Riverhead. “It’s just that he needs some drive time out there. He needs to play more. It’s a learning process. There are no shortcuts. You’re going to have to get a beating now and then if you want to get good.”

Malave can relate what it’s like since he, too, played first singles as an eighth grader. “You’re versing the best tennis player in every school,” he said.

Summerlin, asked how he thought he did Monday, replied, “Not that well.”

Surely, though, there are better days ahead for him. Malave thinks so.

“He has really nice form,” Malave said. “I just feel that once he gets stronger, he’ll be able to return a lot of balls. He’s going to be good in a few years, like really good.”

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