08/14/14 8:00am
08/14/2014 8:00 AM
Jim Christy coached tennis for 33 years. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Jim Christy led Mattituck to a 13-1 record last season, his final with the Tuckers. (Credit: Garret Meade)

One doesn’t need to speak with Jim Christy for long to learn what he is all about.

Just a couple of minutes into a 70-minute interview on Monday, a reporter asked Christy if he knew what his career record as the Mattituck High School girls tennis coach is.

“No,” he answered. “No idea. I never kept track of that kind of stuff.”

The next questions: What about championships? How many of them have you won?

“That’s not something, again, I really paid too close attention to,” he said.

What mattered to Christy more than records, numbers and statistics were the players. He surely coached plenty of them during his time with the Tuckers. (more…)

08/13/14 10:00am
08/13/2014 10:00 AM
Tournament director Jim Christy presenting a scholarship to Molly Kowalski before the women's singles final on Friday. Declining player participation has brought an end to the 36-year tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Tournament director Jim Christy presenting a scholarship to Molly Kowalski before the women’s singles final on Friday. Declining player participation has brought an end to the 36-year tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Like a once-bloated balloon, the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament deflated as player participation curiously dwindled and dwindled in recent years. Finally, that balloon popped.

The news that, after 36 years, the plug has been pulled on the tournament was greeted with sadness and puzzlement by players and others. Times/Review Newsgroup announced last week that it was withdrawing its sponsorship of the tournament in light of declining player participation. (more…)

08/03/14 7:52pm
08/03/2014 7:52 PM
Chris Ujkic delivered 17 winners on Sunday when he won his eighth straight men's singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Chris Ujkic delivered 17 winners on Sunday when he won his eighth straight men’s singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

BOB WALL MEMORIAL TENNIS TOURNAMENT

Will Clemans hit some fantastic shots. He pulled out every trick in his book and played quite well in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament men’s singles final. Afterward, he acknowledged that he had done just about everything he could. It was a performance he could feel good about.

And he lost, 6-2, 6-1, to Chris Ujkic.

The top-seeded Ujkic’s potent mix of athleticism, superb conditioning and tennis know-how enabled him to walk off with the men’s singles title for the eighth consecutive year on Sunday afternoon at Mattituck High School. (more…)

04/08/14 8:39pm
04/08/2014 8:39 PM

Jack Hussnatter was living proof that discipline and a healthy sense of humor can make for a winning combination. Former players and coaching colleagues remember the late Mattituck coaching legend for both qualities.

A longtime coach who made his name in boys basketball, most notably at Mattituck High School, Hussnatter was described as tough but fair, quick-witted, and often with a cigar in his mouth. An innovative strategist in some ways ahead of his time, he was well-liked by players, who are surely saddened by his death at his Mattituck home on April 1. He lived in Mattituck for the last 50 of his 82 years. (more…)

10/22/13 6:27pm
10/22/2013 6:27 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's first singles player, Molly Kowalski, took a 6-0, 6-1 loss to East Islip's Karen Serino in the decisive match.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s first singles player, Molly Kowalski, took a 6-0, 6-1 loss to East Islip’s Karen Serino in the decisive match.

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.”

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10/15/13 10:34pm
10/15/2013 10:34 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's second singles player, Kyra Martin, helped the playoff-bound Tuckers to a 12-0 record and the League VIII championship.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck’s second singles player, Kyra Martin, helped the playoff-bound Tuckers to a 12-0 record and the League VIII championship.

You can’t fight city hall.

To put a twist on that old saying, the Bishop McGann-Mercy girls tennis coach, Mike Clauberg, offers this: “You can’t fight Section XI.”

Clauberg, concerned about what Suffolk County’s interscholastic sports governing body will do with his team in regard to the upcoming county team tournament, may have been like many coaches early this week, anxious to see if their teams would be placed into the 24-team tournament and, if so, who their opponents would be.

A seeding meeting was planned for Tuesday morning. In the meantime, coaches played the waiting game. The tournament is scheduled to start with an outbracket match on Thursday.

“It’s the luck of the draw,” said Clauberg.

Mattituck (12-0), as the League VIII champion, is assured of one of those 24 playoff spots.

“You would like to see how you measure up against some of the other schools in the county,” said Tuckers coach Jim Christy, whose team concluded a perfect regular season last Wednesday with a 7-0 defeat of Hampton Bays. “The reality is, as in any sport, you’re going to end up, with the exception of one team, with a loss. So, you see how far you can go.”

The Tuckers enjoyed a tremendous regular season in which they won four matches by 4-3 scores. A big part of Mattituck’s success has been the play of younger players like eighth-grade third singles player Liz Dwyer and first doubles players Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny, who are both sophomores. They are All-Division players and reached the Division IV Tournament quarterfinals on Monday, as did Mattituck’s first singles player, senior Molly Kowalski, who is Anna’s sister.

Mattituck’s singles lineup is strong. Kyra Martin, who plays second singles, won eight of 10 league matches. Dwyer went 12-0 in league play, and eighth-grader Emily Mowdy went 11-1.

But unlike last year, when the Tuckers relied heavily on singles, Christy said the Tuckers have been picking up points with stronger doubles play as well.

Kowalski and Penny went 10-2 during the regular season. Meanwhile, the two other doubles pairings — Christine Bieber and Melissa Hickox, and Julie Krudop and Haley Martin — went 8-4.

“They took it serious,” Christy said. “They went out and they competed, and they were rewarded for competing.”

Christy said he didn’t know how good of a season it would be until the team’s season-opening match, a 4-3 win over Southampton.

Christy, who expected his team to be seeded around 12th, said he is eager to see the bracket sheet released.

“You want to see who the first team is so you can kind of help the girls prepare for it,” he said, noting that the Tuckers will scrimmage William Floyd on Thursday in preparation for their playoff match.

McGann-Mercy’s 6-8 record (2-8 in League VII) may not be particularly impressive, but Clauberg is quick to point out that the Monarchs play in what he considers the toughest league in the county, with the exception of League I. “People don’t realize how competitive we are against the top teams,” he said. Clauberg pointed out that his team defeated Miller Place, a playoff team, by a 6-1 score.

Clauberg said his team, which reached the county quarterfinals the last three years, should be seeded anywhere between 12th and 18th.

McGann-Mercy’s top two doubles teams — the pairing of senior Shannon Merker and junior Delaney Macchirole, and the duo of senior Jackie Zaweski and junior Micaela Zeboroski — both earned All-County status this year by reaching the Division IV semifinals.

Despite being hit hard by injuries and not having as much depth as they had in the past, the Monarchs produced a 6-1 win over William Floyd in their final regular-season match on Friday to remain in postseason contention. They prevailed without one of their singles starters, sophomore Jamie Lessard, who attended a funeral that day.

Macchirole (4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) over Laura Kesnig), Katie Brownfield (6-3, 6-4 over Nicole Horn) and Nicole Gravagna (6-3, 6-3 over Emily Cereoli) brought the Monarchs wins at singles. In addition, the Monarchs swept the three doubles matches. Merker and Angelika Osiniak defeated Sarah Jurgielewicz and Cassie Rivera, 6-4, 6-3; Zaweski and Savannah Seijka beat Taylor Bourguignon and Julia Cutler, 6-1, 6-2; and Sally Burdiladize and Magda Duda were 6-0, 6-2 winners over Sam Quinn and Sam Skolas.

The only point McGann-Mercy lost was at first singles, with Jackie Dukzin handing Zeboroski a 6-0, 6-1 loss.

The Monarchs, who are in their third straight year in League VII, will be dropped down to League VIII next year, something that Clauberg is not happy about. There is a considerable difference in talent between the two leagues, and Clauberg likes the competition League VII offers his players.

“You want to be in League VII,” he said. “You want to play the top dog. It’s like being in an AP course.”

In the meantime, Clauberg was looking forward to a favorable seeding for his team in the county tournament. The waiting game continued for him and the other coaches.

“We’ll see,” Christy said. “You focus on the season and you basically think about everything after the season is over as kind of gravy. You relax and have a good time.”

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09/30/13 8:25pm
09/30/2013 8:25 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck senior Kyra Martin won 6-0, 6-1 at second singles Monday.

TUCKERS 7, CLIPPERS 0

The harder a player hits the ball in tennis doesn’t always translate into more success. Sure, every player would love to crush the ball across the net, leaving the opponent flat-footed and helpless. But more important is placing the ball.

That’s one of the lessons Jim Christy tries to instill in his Mattituck girls tennis team.

“The idea of being able to control the ball and put it where you want it, if you’re  a good athlete, you can drive people nuts,” Christy said.

So far this season, the Tuckers have been driving opposing teams nuts.

Monday’s 7-0 win over Southold/Greenport gave the Tuckers an 8-0 record in League VIII and kept them firmly in the driver’s seat toward a league title.

The Tuckers may not have a team with the hardest hitters, but their depth and attention to detail has them headed toward a perfect league season.

“We’re at a place where we play every point like it’s the last point of the match,” Christy said.

That mentality makes the Tuckers a pesky group.

Their top three singles players, who are all on a similar skill level, roam the court with a simple mindset: Keep the ball in play and wear down the opponent.

“The only way you beat any one of these singles players is you got to be a player who has the ability to hit with some pop,” Christy said.

Their goal is to keep the ball in play until someone makes a mistake.

“Quite frankly, it’s not going to be us,” Christy said. “These kids are too mentally tough.”

Seniors Molly Kowalski and Kyra Martin and eighth-grader Liz Dwyer all won in straight sets Monday against the Clippers. Kowalski won 6-1, 6-0 against Alexandra Small at first singles. Martin defeated senior Victoria Piechnik, 6-0, 6-1, at second singles and Martin won 6-0, 6-1 over freshman Willow Wilcenski.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport senior Victoria Piechnik played second singles Monday against Mattituck.

The single lineup has remained consistent all season and the top three players have all enjoyed success. Kowalski, who’s been tasked with facing each team’s top player, is 5-3. Martin is 6-2 and Dwyer is still unbeaten at 8-0.

At times in practice, Christy will combine his singles players to challenge the doubles team. The benefit is two-fold. The doubles team gets to practice against the best players on the team. And playing doubles opens up the singles players to a new style of play that ultimately benefits them in their own matches.

Christy said by playing doubles it helps the girls improve at attacking the net, rather than fall into the routine of always staying back.

“That’s how they’re ending points,” he said. “They don’t end points from the baseline. They end points when you bring them to the net. In the past, they would get there and not feel comfortable so they would run back.”

That ultimately would lead to more rallies where the players stay deadlocked, hitting the ball back and forth without finishing.

“You get a better angle because you’re closer to the net,” Christy said. “And they’re willing to do that now, which is great.”

Mattituck’s first doubles team of Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny won 6-1, 6-0 against Jess Rizzo and Shannon Quinn. The second doubles team of Melissa Hickox and Christine Bieber won 6-4, 6-1 against Caroline Metz and Caroline Gehring.

The Clippers have been playing all season with a short roster, which has made squeezing out any wins a challenge. The Clippers fell to 0-8 in League VIII and 0-9 overall. The team forfeited fourth singles and third doubles Monday.

Christy said while the scores may have appeared lopsided in Monday’s match, the play was competitive on the court. Southold coach Allison Krupski said that’s the way the season has gone for the Clippers.

“While we’ve been losing pretty steadily, the individual points per game have been pretty competitive,” she said. “The kids have played competitively all year.”

Playing with a shortened roster and forfeiting spots in the lineup can be draining on a team. But Krupski said the players, seven seniors and one freshman, have taken the challenge with a positive outlook.

“It hasn’t deterred them from having a fresh outlook every time they’ve gone out there,” she said.

Wilcenski got a chance Monday to play up a spot. Normally a second doubles or fourth singles player, the freshman got to play third singles.

“She’s really scrappy,” Krupski said. “She’s very athletic and she’s always hustling. She’ll be somebody to watch develop over the next couple of years.”

Mattituck has four matches remaining to try to close out the league season with a perfect record. The Tuckers will face a challenge Wednesday against Riverhead, a team they beat 4-3 the first time around. The Tuckers face Shoreham-Wading River Friday.

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09/03/13 5:00pm
09/03/2013 5:00 PM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Molly Kowalski, a senior, is Mattituck's top senior.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Molly Kowalski, a senior, is Mattituck’s top singles player.

PREVIEW

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.”

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GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport has only seven varsity players, including Alexandra Small, who is expected to play first singles.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Southold/Greenport has only seven varsity players, including Alexandra Small, who is expected to play first singles.

07/30/13 3:14pm
07/30/2013 3:14 PM

Richard Chizever’s late father, Larry, was well known in the Riverhead area for being a tennis player, a coach and a fun-loving person. But he was also a consummate competitor and a relentless trash talker.

“He did it in a nice way,” Richard said. “He would get under your skin, though.”

Richard recalled an incident about 33 years ago when he and his father drove to Mattituck High School to play a match against each other. As was his custom, Larry found a way to agitate his son during the match. “I was so ticked off at him, I wouldn’t drive home with him,” Richard said. “I walked all the way home to Riverhead.”

The occasional trash talking aside, Richard learned a lot from his father, who he lost about nine years ago. Larry suffered a massive stroke while in recovery from a bilateral hip replacement. He remained in a vegetative condition for six years before he died.

The passion Larry had for tennis, though, lives on in his son. Larry was a standout football and baseball player in Brooklyn. After moving to Riverhead, he was turned on to tennis and became hooked. He encouraged his son to play.

Richard, 57, continues playing the sport he was introduced to by his father. A former Riverhead High School player, Richard figures he has been playing tennis seriously for 44 years. Aside from the occasional aches and pains those on the older side of 50 typically experience, he said his conditioning has improved since he hurt his back in a tournament this past February. “Right now I’m playing some of the best tennis I’ve played in my life,” he said.

On Saturday, the second-seeded Chizever will defend his men’s 50-plus singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament when he will play No. 4 seed John Czartosieski at Robert W. Tasker Park in Peconic. It was Czartosieski who ousted Chizever in the first round of men’s open singles, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Chizever and his men’s 50-plus doubles partner, Bob Lum, will also play in a final on Saturday. That top-seeded duo will be seeking its fifth men’s 50-plus doubles title when they go up against No. 2 Tom Cahill and Ed Lee.

“He’s my guru,” Chizever said of Lum, who is the Riverhead High School boys tennis coach. “He knows the game better than anybody I ever played with. He brings out the best in you.”

Interestingly, what Chizever learned most about tennis may have been less technical than mental. Larry was an unorthodox left-handed player, and Richard is a righty.

“He taught me more about the will to win than rather the actual strokes,” Richard said. “He was just a great competitor. He used to say it’s the fire in your belly. If you have the fire in your belly, you can win. He taught me how to enjoy the sport, how to go out there and win.”

Richard, who resides in Aquebogue and has worked as an optician in Southold for 27 years, learned a lot as a young player. He was among a group of high school players who played against older men in their 40s. “We really learned the finesse of a sport,” he said. “We used to tell coaches we played like old men.”

According to Richard, he hasn’t gone more than six months without playing since he first picked up a tennis racket. He said he regrets not having played tennis in college (Ohio University), but he values the friendships he made through tennis over the years. One of the things he likes best about tennis is the social component. He said it gives him the opportunity to play against people he otherwise would not have met.

And then, of course, there is the competition.

“It’s a sport that you use everything,” Chizever said. “You use every part of your body, including your mind.”

Jim Christy, the director of the Bob Wall Memorial Tournament, said Chizever symbolizes what the tournament is about.

“In Rich’s case, he just enters to have fun,” Christy said. “He moves along, but he has such a great disposition. He generally enjoys playing. It doesn’t matter whether the player is very strong or very weak. He never shows anybody up.”

Christy said he sees similarities between Richard and his father in terms of personality.

“His father was just an absolute gem of a man,” Christy said. “You could not not like Larry Chizever. He’d talk your ear off. He had such a great sense of humor.”

Of course, this is nothing new. Richard has heard people talk about his father and how he loved life many times before.

“People would come up to me and say you are lucky to have such a great father,” Richard said. “I would say to them, ‘You have no idea how lucky I was.’ ”

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