TUCKERS 6, RED DEVILS 1
It’s unusual to see an eighth-grader playing for a high school boys varsity tennis team, but how about three of them — and a freshman! — all in the singles lineup? And not only are they playing, but they’re winning.
That’s the rather remarkable — almost unheard of — situation that Mattituck finds itself in.
Garrett Malave, Parker Tuthill, Andrew Young and Thomas Chatin all scored two-set wins Friday, bringing their records to 2-0 as defending Suffolk County League VIII champion Mattituck posted a 6-1 result in its favor at Center Moriches High School.
Young is the old-timer of the group; he’s a freshman playing third singles. The others are eighth-graders — Malave at first singles, Tuthill at second singles and Chatin at fourth singles.
“We’re basically leading our team,” Tuthill said. “We’re the four best players — and the youngest.” He added, “We like to win, too.”
Mattituck’s longtime coach, Mike Huey, said he has never had three eighth-graders on his team before, nor has he had four underclassmen in his singles lineup before. So, this is a new adventure of sorts for the Tuckers (2-0, 2-0).
“It’s kind of fun,” Huey said. “Even the older kids marvel at the younger kids, and the younger kids like that. They got their chests stuck out a little bit.”
No doubt, the young singles players have good cause to feel good about themselves. Their play has been convincing and is undoubtedly raising eyebrows around League VIII.
“They look for real, in every aspect of the game, from forehand to backhand, net approach, drop shots, whatever it may be,” Center Moriches coach Rob Spicer said. “They were very focused kids who you could tell the training really did well for them because they knew what they were doing before they got the ball.”
Malave and Tuthill aren’t new to the varsity scene, either. They both played for the Tuckers last year as seventh-graders. Malave went 12-2 in his first varsity season, playing mostly fourth singles. Tuthill played doubles, third or fourth singles. So, Huey knew what he had in those two players.
Young, however, was a bit of a surprise. He played junior high school baseball last year. But Young has a tennis background as well. He said he played both sports, on an off, since he was about 7 years old.
Malave first picked up a tennis racket when he was in first or second grade, and he stuck with it, working on his game.
“Tennis is a frustrating sport,” he said. “A lot of people quit really early because they expect to be really good. It’s not like baseball or basketball where you get good really quickly. You have to have a lot of patience.”
Huey said Malave is playing with confidence and consistency, attacking the ball with a lot of torque. He’s also thinking on the court.
“I can move the ball around,” Malave said. “Basically, you want to tire your opponent out and you want to get him physically and mentally” worn down.
On Friday, Malave cruised, 6-1, 6-2, over senior Justin Cabrara. Tuthill triumphed, 6-3, 6-3, over senior Zach Schrage. Young downed sophomore Ryan Noonan, 6-1, 6-3. Chatin recorded a 7-5, 6-3 decision over sophomore Preston Horan.
Mattituck’s second and third doubles teams also came through with wins. The No. 2 pairing of senior Graham Homan and junior James Rabkevich earned a 6-0, 6-4 result against senior Mike Lemmon and junior David Livotti. The third-doubles tandem of junior Doug Beebe and sophomore Kevin Schwartz held off senior Jason Albert and junior Dan McCarthy in the only three-setter of the day, 6-2, 1-6, 6-2.
Center Moriches seniors Mike Oldham and Mike Valentin brought the Red Devils (0-2, 0-2) their only individual match win of the day. They defeated senior Austin Tuthill and junior Steve Urwand, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, in first doubles.
Spicer, who has been the Center Moriches coach throughout its brief three-year varsity history, liked the competitiveness he saw from his players. “I look at the kids as if they won,” he said.
Mattituck’s underclassmen look as if they have a lot of winning in their future. What is the best thing about having the four underclassmen in those singles slots?
“They’re going to be here for a while,” Huey said. “The more competition they get and the more matches they get under their belt and the tournament-type play, it’s going to make them become better players.”