Tuckers need to be mentally prepared for League VII

Jim Christy, the coach of the Mattituck High School girls tennis team, is preparing his players almost as much mentally as physically for the season ahead of them. That’s because Christy knows the Tuckers will need their mind, body and spirit when they compete in what might be the strongest league in Suffolk County.

“That’s a big part,” Christy said of the mental game. “You have to go in with the attitude that you’re supposed to win.”

Mattituck (8-6 in 2009), which was ranked 11th in Suffolk last year and lost to East Islip in round 16 of the county team tournament, will have its hands full in League VII against the likes of Westhampton Beach, East Hampton, The Ross School and Southampton.

“You’re looking at four of the top 10 teams in Suffolk County,” said Christy, who is in his 32nd year as the team’s coach. “I know we’re going to be playing the best competition in Suffolk County.”

It is important, the coach said, for Mattituck to play to win, and not play not to lose. “When you go up against people like that, these are normally tournament-tough players,” he said. “We need to get in a mindset that we’re not afraid of you. We can play with you. We can hit with you.”

The League VII competition should benefit Erica Bundrick, the all-division junior who returns as the team’s first singles player.

“She’s ready,” Christy said. “She can hit with anybody.”

The Tuckers lost four four-year varsity players from last season’s team. Bundrick’s position is the only one that is settled. The rest are up for grabs.

Jen Smith, Ashley Goeller, Emily Commando and Olivia Cardinale were in the lineup last year. Meanwhile, Katie Mangiamele, Nora Zuhoski, Emily Horan, Erin Pozzolano, Jen Lengyel, Mallaigh Nolan, Siobhan Nolan, Kate Freudenberg and Molly Kowalski are looking to find places for themselves.

Christy said he has been impressed by both the athleticism and open-mindedness of his players and their willingness to take an aggressive approach on the court.

“That’s the attitude that I want these girls to have,” he said. “If they have that at the end of the season, we will have improved tremendously.”

Southold/Greenport/Shelter Island (4-11 last year) isn’t exactly starting from scratch, but the Clippers are not far from it.

The team’s list of returning players is short. It consists of three juniors — Sarah Stromski, Lizzie Anderson and Mackenzie Feeley. Stromski played third singles last year. Anderson played doubles mostly, and the majority of Feeley’s matches were exhibitions.

That’s what happens when seven players graduate.

Most of the remainder of the squad consists of freshmen coming up from the junior high school team. One of those freshmen, Alexandra Small, is worth keeping an eye on. She will probably play second or third singles.

Age-wise, it’s almost like a junior varsity team.

“I’m looking at it as a chance to build fresh,” said Allison Krupski, who is in her third year as the Clippers’ coach. “They’re definitely hard-working in practice and they definitely aim to please. … They’re learning quickly.”

Although three schools share the team, it is almost entirely made up of Southold players. There are no Shelter Island players on the team, and only one from Greenport.

Krupski, who is encouraging her players to play year round, said she knows it can be a tough season record-wise, but she has a goal. She said, “I aim to see big, huge improvements from the beginning of preseason to where we finish in October.”