A high school girls tennis team knows it is in a good situation when the biggest issue it faces during preseason practice is the question of who will play on its third doubles team.
At the same time, Mattituck’s veteran coach, Jim Christy, fully understands the importance of doubles to his team’s upcoming season.
“It comes down to doubles,” said Christy, who is in his 33rd year of coaching the Tuckers (14-2 last season).
Christy said Mattituck could finish anywhere from first place to fourth place in Suffolk County League VIII. “It depends how we get the doubles playing,” he said.
As of last Thursday, Mattituck had five players under consideration for third doubles. “The other parts of the lineup are sort of falling into place,” said Christy.
Mattituck’s lineup is headlined by its top two singles players, seniors Molly Kowalski and Kyra Martin. They were both all-league choices last year. Martin hasn’t lost a league match in two years.
Christy said Kowalski has looked good in practice. “Molly is what I would describe as a tough out,” he said. “She is very focused, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, very much like Kyra. They’re carbon copies of each other.”
The top two doubles teams also appear set. Two sophomores, Anna Kowalski (Molly’s sister) and Courtney Penny, are slotted in at first doubles. Christine Bieber and Melissa Hickox, who are both seniors, are paired at second doubles.
It looks as if the third and fourth singles spots will go to Elizabeth Dwyer and Emily Mowdy, two eighth-graders who played for the junior varsity team last year.
Emily Ciamaricone, Autumn Harris and Erin Miller are all seniors with varsity experience.
A freshman, Haley Martin (Kyra’s sister), could be one of the third doubles players. Moving up from the junior varsity team are sophomores Julia Krudop and Ava Gaines, and juniors Victoria Ireland and Nicole Considine.
“Last year we were basically undefeated at second, third and fourth singles,” Christy said. “I think we’re very much like last year. It will come down to, again, how well we can get the doubles teams to play. The singles players are very competitive, they’re very consistent. If we win two of the three doubles points, we’ll have a very good year.”
Either way one looks at it, there’s no getting around a tough fact. A complete high school tennis lineup requires 10 players for four singles entries and three doubles teams; Southold/Greenport (4-11) had only seven varsity players this past weekend.
“Pretty scary,” said coach Allison Krupski.
Considering that a preseason team meeting in June was well-attended, Krupski said she was surprised at the low turnout for preseason practices. But five seniors, two of whom started last year, did not come out for the team. The junior varsity team has eight players. Krupski said she had not spoken to the athletic director, Mike Brostowski, about the situation yet, but she would advise keeping the teams split since most of the junior varsity players are freshmen.
So, as things stand, the varsity Clippers will go with three singles players and two doubles teams. That means they will forfeit two team points every match.
“They’re really working hard every day in practice,” Krupski said of her players. “They’re mentally trying to put it out of their mind that they’re going to forfeit two points every match.”
Six of the seven varsity players are seniors, led by Alexandra Small, who is expected to play first singles after handling third singles last year. Victoria Piechnik, the team’s Greenport representative, is slotted at second singles, with Jamie Grigonis and Caroline Metz in contention for third singles.
Jessica Rizzo and Shannon Quinn formed an all-league doubles team last season. Willow Wilcenski, a freshman, is the team’s only non-senior; she plays doubles.
“I’m still looking forward to a great season,” Krupski said. “I think individually they’re going to have a successful season.”
There is a positive side to being shorthanded: Players get more individualized attention and work.
“We get a lot more drills in,” Krupski said. “We do more things with less people.”