In high school girls tennis, the difference between Suffolk County League VII and League VIII in terms of caliber of play is tremendous.
While League VIII may be good for a team’s win-loss record, tougher League VII will make a team better.
“This is the league you want to be in,” Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Mike Clauberg said of League VII. “This is where the competition is.”
Clauberg and his Monarchs should know. Last year they were League VIII champions, going 18-1 and reaching the Suffolk County Team Tournament Round of 16. As their reward, they were promoted to League VII. Even with the loss of seven players from last year’s lineup, Mercy prefers to be pushed, as does Mattituck, Mercy’s opponent on Monday when the visiting Monarchs won, 6-1.
“The progress we’ve made from the beginning of the season till now is tremendous,” Mattituck coach Mike Huey said. “They’re doing the right things. They’re making the right moves and that’s because they’re playing good competition. It might not be reflected in Ws and Ls. We could go down to League VIII and we can win love and love, and it’s no big deal, and we might not get much better. [In League VII] we have to fight for every single point.”
Mattituck’s first singles player, senior Liz Dwyer, thrives on competition. She fretted when she heard talk of Mattituck possibly being dropped to League VIII for this season. “I was telling Mr. Huey: ‘We can’t. We have to stay in it. The competition is really good.’ I’m like, ‘Our team can handle it.’ ”
That improvement comes at a price, though. Mercy (4-5, 3-4) and Mattituck (2-7, 0-7) started the day at the bottom of the six-team league standings under William Floyd, Westhampton Beach, Eastport-South Manor and East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson. Mercy had lost three of its previous four matches and Mattituck had dropped four straight.
But, as Mercy junior Brooke Kappenberg put it, “You can only get better playing better people.”
Rose Hayes showed why she is among the better players in the league. The Mercy eighth-grader, who had flown back to New York Monday morning after playing in a weekend tournament in Charlotte, N.C., may have been weary, but it sure didn’t show in her play. Hayes (8-1) played it safe with her first serves and only needed a second serve three times in her 6-0, 6-1 defeat of Dwyer (6-3). Dwyer, on the other hand, went 12-for-30 (40 percent) on her first serves.
Playing her typical clean game, Hayes fired away 15 winners and showed her tremendous ball retrieval ability as she outpointed Dwyer, 49-18.
“She goes for the winners,” Clauberg said. “She can do with accuracy what most players can’t. That puts her at a whole different level. She’s a natural. She was born to play tennis.”
Jamie Densieski and Isabella Sorgi also brought Mercy singles wins. Densieski defeated Drew Hahn, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, and Sorgi stopped Larysa Andreadis, 6-1, 7-5.
Mattituck’s sole team point was provided by second singles player Emily Mowdy, a 6-3, 6-1 winner over Kelsey Brandwick. Mowdy is 6-3 this season.
It was all Mercy in doubles. Karina Ellis and Kappenberg teamed up to beat Joy Davis and Alex Talbot, 6-1, 6-2, at first doubles. Second doubles provided the only three-setter of the day, with Jordyn Stromski and Ryan Waski prevailing over Ashley Perkins and Jessica Scheer, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. In third doubles, Julia Cappiello and Lizzy Hannah recorded a 6-1, 6-1 win over Julie Kosmynka and Mia Slovak.
“We’re getting somewhere I think,” Kappenberg said. “This year it’s definitely much harder, a lot harder. Everybody’s so much better.”
And that’s the name of the game in League VII.
Photo caption: Emily Mowdy brought Mattituck its only team point against Bishop McGann-Mercy with her victory at second singles. (Credit: Bob Liepa)