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Girls Tennis: Waiting game tests Tuckers’ patience

Patience is a virtue Justyna Solowinska has an abundance of, and perhaps even her patience was finally wearing thin. This wasn’t the sort of waiting game she likes.

Solowinska and her teammates on the Mattituck High School girls tennis team waited well over two hours for the belated arrival of the visiting Ross School team for their scheduled 4 p.m. match Tuesday. Afternoon had turned into evening by the time the Ross bus parked near Mattituck’s four unlit courts. Ross players got off the bus, stretched their legs a bit and soon boarded the bus again for the ride back to their school in East Hampton. With sunset a half-hour away, there was no sense starting a match that stood no chance of being completed.

“I was prepared all throughout the day, mentally, psychologically,” Solowinska, a junior who plays first singles, said. “I had a healthy breakfast, a healthy lunch and I was just really looking forward to [playing] Ross.”

It didn’t happen.

Apparently, a busing issue was the cause of Ross’ tardiness.

Mattituck coach Cory Dolson said he was unsure if the Suffolk County League III match would be rescheduled or a forfeit would be awarded. The teams are scheduled to face each other Thursday at Ross.

Ironically, Dolson had spoken moments earlier about how what his young, largely inexperienced team needs most is live match action.

In a compact two-month season this past spring, Mattituck won its second league championship in four years and 11th overall. But the Tuckers graduated half their lineup from that team. Solowinska called the loss of those five players “devastating.” She said they were “the star players of our team. They impacted us more than I ever thought they would.”

A 7-0 loss to Bayport-Blue Point Monday left Mattituck with a 3-2 record, overall and in league play.

Solowinska is Mattituck’s sole returning singles player. Among the returning players listed in Mattituck’s lineup Tuesday were sophomore Misia Uklanska at second singles and the first doubles pairing of junior Piper Altman and senior Rachel Orlowski. Eighth-grader Fiona Dunn was to make her singles debut in the No. 4 spot.

The lineup also included junior Sarah Mather at third singles, eighth-grader Emma Celic and senior Lindsay Park at second doubles and sophomore Autumn Montgomery and freshman Nyla Nieves at third doubles.

Mattituck junior Justyna Solowinska has a 4-1 record this season at first singles. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

“We have some girls who have never played a varsity match ever, and even last year there wasn’t a lot of JV matches, so even some of these girls that played JV last year, they didn’t get a lot of really live match experience because there was so [few] teams,” Dolson said. “So for some of them, they’re just getting thrown out on the varsity and kind of learning as they go.”

Solowinska is the team’s top player, making the move from second singles this past spring to first singles. That is a bigger jump than it sounds.

“It is pretty big, honestly,” Solowinska said. “You know, the competition just gets better, they get more advanced, they’re so much more precise with the ball, the positioning. Their shots are much more immaculate. They’re strong. They have kicks. They’re just superior to everything that you do.”

And yet, Solowinska hasn’t done badly for herself, with a 4-1 record. That loss came to Bayport’s Emelia Romano, 6-1, 6-1. Prior to that, Solowinska had won her first four matches — 6-3, 6-0 over Center Moriches’ Abigail Shaming, 8-3 over Elwood/John Glenn’s Sabrina Siddiqui, 6-0, 6-0 over Southampton’s Shelby Delosantos and a forfeit win against Hampton Bays.

What does Solowinska have working in her favor?

Patience. Plenty of patience.

“If I had to, I would play a match for 12 hours and I would totally go for that, honestly,” she said. “If I come out with the win, it was totally worth it.”

Describing Solowinska’s playing style, Dolson said: “She is consistent, gets to a lot of balls and doesn’t make a lot of errors, right, so she’ll be in those rallies where there might be 20, 30 balls hit and you know she’s gonna outlast the other girl, which is, you know, definitely her strong suit, you know what I mean? She’s a grinder. Her matches really take a long time. She goes out there with like four water bottles.”

Similar to Solowinska, Uklanska (2-3) worked on her game over the short summer offseason and transformed herself from a doubles player into a second singles player. “That was my goal,” she said. “That’s what I wanted all summer long.”

This isn’t shaping up to be a championship season for Mattituck, but Solowinska wants to see progress.

“Our young team, I don’t think we’re gonna get very far this season, to be honest, just looking at our wins and our losses and the teams that we’re versing,” she said, “but I honestly just hope that this will be an experience for them [that] they can learn from and that next year we can come back even stronger.”