Girls Tennis Preview: Tuckers learned from their losses

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Erica Bundrick of Mattituck took third place in the Conference IV Tournament and was a county quarterfinalist last year.

The 2010 high school girls tennis season was a losing one for the Mattituck Tuckers, but it wasn’t the wins and losses that made an impact on their longtime coach, Jim Christy. Christy considers what happened to his inexperienced team last year to have been a success story.

“Last year was terrific,” said Christy, who is in his 31st year as the team’s coach. “I worried that with the inexperience we had last year, the girls would either become frustrated or become a little unhappy, but just the opposite happened. They just realized that they had to step it up and they did. By the end of the season, we were a far superior team than what entered the season. … These kids stepped up, and I was so impressed with how competitive they became by the end of the year. They improved. They improved immensely.”

The dividends of that improvement should pay off this year.

Mattituck, which has been moved from Suffolk County League VII to League VIII, is rich with returning players. First and foremost among them is Erica Bundrick, a senior first singles player who won four of her last five matches in the league season last year. She also took third place in the Conference IV Tournament and reached the final eight of the county tournament.

“She really turned the corner,” Christy said. “If she can start the way she ended last year, she’ll be very tough. In fact, she’ll be unbeatable. It’s a different Erica this year.”

So many other players are back, too. Mallaigh Nolan and her twin sister, Siobhan Nolan, return along with Nora Zuhoski, Erin Pozzolano, Kathryn Mangiamele, Olivia Cardinale, Jennifer Lengyel. Catharine Freudenberg and Molly Kowalski. The only new additions are Kyra Martin and Caitlin Penny.

“We’re going to have a very good year this year,” Christy said. “We’re going to have depth. We’re going to be competitive with any of the teams that we play.”

As for the league title, Christy said: “There’s no question that we’ll be in contention. We should be one of the favored teams, but again, you decide that on the tennis court. Other than Erica, the rest of the girls are solid players, but they’re going to have to be consistent. They’re going to have to be patient.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport's first singles player, Sara Stromski, was an all-league choice last year.

Control and consistency.

Those have been the watchwords for the Southold/Greenport Clippers (4-8), who face an unusual, although welcomed, situation: Their entire lineup is back.

Allison Krupski, who is in her fourth year as the team’s coach, said her players have been watching the U.S. Open and noting that the winners are the players who make the least mistakes.

“We always tell them it’s not about hitting the ball as hard as you can,” Krupski said. “It’s about hitting the ball over the net to a certain spot.”

It’s all about control and consistency.

Sara Stromski, a senior first singles player, is a good example of that. Stromski, in her third varsity season, was an all-league player last year along with Elizabeth Anderson, a senior who played third singles. Alexandra Small, a sophomore, played second singles, and Victoria Piechnik, a sophomore who is the only Greenporter on the squad, was the No. 4 singles player.

Shannon Quinn and Jessica Rizzo were paired at first doubles for most of the season. The second doubles team consisted of Katherine Bertschi and Shannon Smith. Bertschi, a senior, is recovering from an appendix operation and was not expected to be cleared to practice until Thursday. Brittany Calderale and Mackenzie Feeley made up the third doubles team.

The only new player is Alison Bishop, a senior who is a first-year player.

Krupski said she doesn’t expect to see many changes from last year’s lineup.

“While they improved a lot and have some experience, we do face some tough opponents,” she said. “The first and second singles players are going to have tough matches no matter what.”

But experience has made the Clippers better — and determined.

“They are really dedicated,” Krupski said. “They don’t get frustrated. They really want to be better. They want to win.”

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