SUFFOLK COUNTY TEAM TOURNAMENT | REDMEN 4, TUCKERS 3
Perhaps a warning should accompany the seedings when the playoff brackets are released for the Suffolk County high school girls tennis team tournament. It could read similar to the warning on a rear-view mirrow: Warning! Teams in the mirror are closer to you than they appear.
Seedings can be a dicey thing. That is why wise coaches know better than to put too much stock into them.
Take No. 22 seed Mattituck, for example. The Tuckers not only upset No. 11 Harborfields in their first-round match on Friday, but they put a scare into No. 6 East Islip when those teams met in a Round of 16 contest on Tuesday. Karen Serina, the Division II champion, beat Molly Kowalski in the decisive first-singles match, 6-0, 6-1, giving East Islip a 4-3 triumph in Islip Terrace.
The result of that match was expected. Serina, a junior, is a two-time Division II champion with a 75-0 record in the division.
“She started coming out to these courts when she was probably about 4 years old and her father would bring her out and just feed her balls,” said East Islip coach Mike Drozd.
Kowalski knew what she was up against. When Mattituck coach Jim Christy informed her that her match, the final one of the day, would break a 3-3 tie, her reaction was, “Come on.”
Christy said Kowalski, a senior, is the most improved player he has had “in a number of years. And the reason is because of the competition she has to play day in and day out. She’s playing some of the top people in the county.”
But it was the first doubles victory by East Islip’s Shelby Clyne and Justina Mancu that stands out as the critical match. They were taken to three sets by Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny. The scores were 6-1, 5-7, 6-3. Clyne and Mancu had trailed in the third set, 3-2.
Had Mattituck won that contest, the match would have swung in its favor.
“Very close,” said Drozd.
That was part of a sweep of the three doubles matches by East Islip, which brought its record to 13-2. Its second doubles team of Lauren Farrell and Vall Mani defeated Christine Bieber and Melissa Hickox, 6-4, 6-4. Emma Benardo and Rebecca Schreiner took third doubles, 6-1, 6-3, over Julie Krudop and Haley Martin.
League III champion East Islip, a county semifinalist last year, was to play No. 3 Ward Melville or No. 14 Bishop McGann-Mercy in a quarterfinal Wednesday.
Mattituck (13-1), the League VIII champion, enjoyed its second undefeated regular season in three years.
“We have surpassed any expectations that we had,” Christy said. “I didn’t know that the girls would improve to the level that they’ve improved. I didn’t think that we would be as competitive, not just within our league, but against anybody else. I don’t care who the team is, we’re going to make them sweat. We got to a place this season where when we needed to play well, we played well. And today was no exception.”
Mattituck enjoyed good success at singles, taking three of the four matches on Tuesday. Kyra Martin’s patience and steady play helped her earn a 6-3, 6-2 result against Christina Hyland. While Hyland played aggressively and hit some powerful shots (18 winners to Martin’s 3), she also committed 21 unforced errors to Martin’s 7. The match saw only one double fault.
“I play very defensively,” said Kyra Martin (12-3), who has a league record of 40-2 over the last three years. “If I try to start hitting winners, then I’m going to start making mistakes.”
Patience truly is a virtue in tennis.
“There’s no secret,” Christy said. “Unless you want to spend $50,000 to get strokes like [Serina has], you need patience, and that’s free.”
Two Mattituck eighth-graders, Liz Dwyer and Emily Mowdy, won their matches as well, both of them defeating seniors. Dwyer topped Abigail Dell’Orto, 6-3, 6-1, and Mowdy scored a 6-4, 6-2 win over Emily Hyland.
Molly Kowalski said the season was a win-win for the Tuckers. As she explained, “We had fun and we won.”
Christy had a lot to feel good about. He said, “I am so proud because in all honesty, this is a very good team, and we had that coach very, very nervous.”