Coaching girls tennis is nothing new to Mike Huey. After all, he had coached the Mattituck High School junior varsity team for two years in the late 1980s.
Now the longtime Mattituck boys tennis coach is taking over the girls team, too. He takes the reins from Jim Christy, who stepped down after 33 years on the job.
An obvious change for Huey is the pleasant early-season weather of the girls tennis season in the fall. When the boys tennis teams start practicing in the early spring, it can be bitterly cold with howling wind to deal with. Not so this summer as the Mattituck girls prepare for the upcoming season in splendid weather conditions.
“The weather every day is absolutely gorgeous,” said Huey.
Christy walked away a champion after his final season. It was a season that saw the Tuckers (13-1) enjoy their second undefeated regular season in three years and take the League VIII championship. Their only loss came to East Islip in the Round of 16 of the Suffolk County Team Tournament.
Huey said Christy told him, “ ‘I’m leaving you a good bunch of girls,’ and he was right.” Huey continued: “What he left me is very, very good. He left me a lot of good players. They’re young players … but they’re good players.”
There is not a single senior among them.
Liz Dwyer, a freshman who earlier this summer became the youngest women’s singles champion in the history of the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament at the age of 13, will take over first singles from Molly Kowalski. Kowalski will play for NCAA Division III Muhlenberg College (Pa.) this fall.
Courtney Penny, a junior who played first doubles last year, will split time between singles and doubles. Emily Mowdy, a freshman, was a successful third-singles player last year. Julie Krudop, a junior, played a lot over the summer and improved “dramatically,” said Huey, who expects her to swing between singles and doubles. Kowalski’s sister, junior Anna Kowalski, played first doubles. Another junior doubles player, Ava Gaines, is also back.
Huey said freshman Drew Hahn looks promising at third or fourth singles. Two junior doubles players from the junior varsity team, Kimberly Scheer and Emily Gatz, are looking for places for themselves in the lineup along with another doubles player, sophomore Jaycey Lenquel.
Huey familiarized himself with the players by meeting twice a week with them over the summer.
“I don’t know much about last year except what Jim Christy has told me, but I think with the core kids we have back, we have to be one of the favorites to defend this championship,” said Huey, who has the top-ranked team in the league, according to the coaches.
That is not to say that the players dwell on what they achieved last year. Huey has not seen any evidence of that. “I think they’re like business as usual,” he said. “They don’t even think about championships. They think about one match at a time.”
Huey said the practices have been a lot of fun. He still has an adjustment to make, though. He is not used to coaching tennis in such pleasant weather before a season starts. “But I can get used to it real fast,” he said.
When Howie Geismar, 60, a retired teacher and longtime coach, was asked in July if he would coach the Southold/Greenport team, he said, “Right away I jumped at it.”
So, while Allison Salmaggi leaves the varsity team to coach the middle school team, Geismar takes charge of the Clippers’ program. He has long ties to girls tennis, including time coaching Hauppauge and Shoreham-Wading River.
“It’s my passion, girls tennis,” he said. He added, “I think I’m enjoying coaching now that I’m retired more than I ever did.”
Geismar inherits what he called a young, inexperienced team, with two juniors, seven sophomores and four freshman. “A lot of kids are new to tennis,” he said.
The No. 1 singles spot has been secured by sophomore Willow Wilcenski. Another sophomore, Daisy Rymer, is contending for second singles with junior Angie Bucci. Two more sophomores, Grace Bruer and Sarah Janazzo, are also among the team’s top singles players.
The doubles teams were not set by Monday, but the first doubles team may be a pairing of sophomores, Emma Alvarez and Althea Mignone. Another possible tandem may be sophomore Daniella Menjivar and freshman Rebecca Dickerson.
Despite its affiliation with Greenport, the team has no players from that school.
“We’re looking to build on our youth,” Geismar said. “We have to get these girls playing and try to build a tennis tradition out here in Southold and Greenport. We do have some young kids. If they put in the time and the work, we could develop a nice program.”
He continued, “If we work hard, we play smart and we have fun, we can have a fulfilling season and really learn the game of tennis.”