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.


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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10/08/12 6:25pm
10/08/2012 6:25 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Kate Freudenberg won her third singles match in two sets as part of Mattituck’s sweep of Shelter Island.


Considering that the Mattituck girls tennis team lost eight players from last year’s team, the Tuckers have done quite well for themselves this season. While they have helped themselves to another winning season, the Tuckers will need some help if they are to retain a share of the Suffolk County League VIII championship.

Mattituck breezed to victory on Monday, but it may be too little, too late. By beating Shelter Island’s first-year varsity team, 7-0, Mattituck kept its mathematical chances of securing a share of the league title alive, but that’s about it. In reality, the Tuckers may have said goodbye to their league title hopes with a 4-3 loss to first-place Eastport/South Manor on Friday.

In order for second-place Mattituck (10-3, 10-2) to catch up to Eastport/South Manor (14-1, 12-0), the Tuckers would not only need to win both of their remaining matches against Hampton Bays and Southampton, but they would need the Sharks to drop one of their two remaining matches against Shelter Island and Center Moriches.

“We need someone to beat them for us,” said Mattituck’s junior second singles player, Kyra Martin.

Not very likely.

Mattituck coach Jim Christy, a realist, said, “We’re going to end up in second.”

That means the Tuckers will miss out on the playoffs, but it doesn’t detract from what the team has accomplished this season. Strong, consistent play from the singles lineup of Molly Kowalski (10-3), Martin (12-1), Kate Freudenberg (13-0) and Caitlin Penny (12-1) has been the key ingredient in this winning recipe. The four seniors, who have been joined by 12 new additions to the squad, bring a professional, all-business approach to the court.

It could be argued that Mattituck has the best singles lineup in the league. The Tuckers have swept singles points in all of their matches except for the two they played against Eastport/South Manor and one against Southampton. In each of those matches Mattituck won three of the four singles contests.

“I guess I noticed after maybe the fourth or fifth match that they were going to be very tough to beat because they don’t beat themselves, they just don’t,” Christy said. “All four of them — it’s hard to describe — they just seem to be able to have the ability to stay in the moment. It’s like, I almost know if it gets to the 3-3 point, we’re going to win it, and if it’s the match point, we’re going to win it, and I think they believe that. They seem so calm, so relaxed.”

It sure seemed like that on a cool Monday afternoon when Mattituck had little trouble winning on its home courts against winless Shelter Island (0-13, 0-13). Once again, Mattituck’s singles lineup took care of business. Kowalski (6-3, 6-3 over Lisa Kaasik), Martin (6-1, 6-1 over Corrine Mahoney) and Freudenberg (6-0, 6-1 over Brianna Kimmelman) won their matches in two sets. Mattituck’s fourth singles player, Penny, took a win by forfeit.

But a good tennis team does not live by singles alone. Mattituck’s doubles teams kept up their end as well, winning two-set affairs. Perhaps the most competitive was in third doubles. Molly Fogarty and Autumn Harris prevailed in a first-set tiebreaker against Caitlin Binder and Madi Hallman, 7-4, before taking the second set, 6-1.

In the other doubles matches, Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny beat Serina Kaasik and Taylor Sherman, 6-2, 6-0, and Christine Bieber and Melissa Hickox were 6-3, 6-2 winners over Nicole Poleshuk and Evi Saunders.

“Everyone just plays their game,” said Martin, who put 26 of her 29 first serves in play and outpointed Mahoney, 49-17. “Everyone’s an integral part of the wins.”

As a first-year team, it’s not surprising that Shelter Island has taken its lumps and is still awaiting its first varsity win.

“It’s not going to happen this year,” said coach Sue Warner, whose team has one match remaining against Eastport/South Manor.

Shelter Island made the jump to varsity tennis after two years of middle school and three years of junior varsity tennis. But adversity struck the Indians when they lost the services of two of their top singles players, Keri Ann Mahoney and Melissa Ames. Mahoney, who was an undefeated second singles player for the junior varsity team last year, underwent knee surgery, and Ames opted to play volleyball this fall.

“It hurts,” said Lisa Kaasik.

But this season has been about more than wins and losses for the Indians.

“Obviously our record doesn’t show how close we’ve been, but it’s been fun because we did J.V. for two years and it’s been more serious this year, but I think it hasn’t really changed our energy or our feeling for tennis,” Lisa Kaasik said. “We come out here to have fun.”

Warner said Shelter Island will likely go back to playing at the junior varsity level next year because of the young players she will have. But that doesn’t mean that the Indians haven’t learned a thing or two this season.

“I think they’re learning about tennis,” Warner said. “They’re learning sportsmanship because they’re not winning, so they need to learn to be courteous.”

“They’re resilient and they come back laughing every day,” she continued. “The young kids have really been a spark on my team this year. You know, winning isn’t everything. I think they’re still having fun, which helps. It helps the pain of losing.”

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