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…)

08/08/14 9:38pm
08/08/2014 9:38 PM
At 13 years of age, Liz Dwyer became the youngest player to ever win the women's singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

At 13 years of age, Liz Dwyer became the youngest player to ever win the women’s singles title in the history of the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

BOB WALL MEMORIAL TENNIS TOURNAMENT

Liz Dwyer is all of 13 years of age, going on 14 (her birthday is Aug. 22). But she is not a typical 13-year-old. Most 13-year-olds don’t have her athleticism or tennis-playing ability.

In addition to being 13, Dwyer is also something else: the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament’s women’s singles champion. (more…)

05/17/14 3:55pm
05/17/2014 3:55 PM
Shoreham-Wading River's Logan Hoffmann, right, pressures Mattituck/Greenport/Southold's Justine Kundmueller in the second half. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

Shoreham-Wading River’s Logan Hoffmann, right, pressures Mattituck/Greenport/Southold’s Justine Kundmueller in the second half. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)

SUFFOLK COUNTY CLASS C TOURNAMENT | WILDCATS 16, TUCKERS 6

Without the benefit of explanation, records and statistics can be misleading. For example, the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls lacrosse team took a deceptive 6-8 record into its Suffolk County Class C Tournament outbracket game against Mattituck/Greenport/Southold on Saturday. On paper, it should have been a close game. On the field, though, it was a different story.

The teams had completed the regular season separated by a mere two places and only 6.94 power-rating points in the Division II standings. They were separated by a lot more on Saturday, though. (more…)

12/01/13 5:00pm
12/01/2013 5:00 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Courtney Murphy, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle, shot on the side during Monday's practice.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Courtney Murphy, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle, shot on the side during Monday’s practice.

While her Mattituck teammates drilled and scrimmaged on the basketball court during Monday’s practice, Courtney Murphy was off to the side, doing her own thing.

“Oh, how I’d love to be out there,” Murphy said. “I’d give anything to be out there right now.”

As it is, Murphy is hampered by a left ankle that is sprained in two places. She sustained the injuries while playing soccer this fall.

“It’s been almost six weeks and it’s still not healed,” she said. “This first week [of practice] is like a test week to see how much I can handle. … It’s still not where I would like it to be and it’s frustrating to wait. I have to wait for it to get better.”

In the meantime, Murphy jogs a little, does some shooting on a side basket and dribbles a lot “just because I need to do something,” said the junior forward, who wears a brace on the ankle that she ices after practices. “I can’t just sit and not do anything.”

Murphy is anxious to hit the court at full strength and compete for a starting position. Last season she was one of the first players off the bench along with Molly Kowalski.

The Tuckers return six players from last season’s 11-8 playoff team. Another six players are new to the team. Shannon Dwyer, a senior forward, and Katie Hoeg, a sophomore point guard, are the only returning starters.

That being the case, there are positions to be won, and the competition is expected to be tight.

“It’s all up for grabs,” Kowalski said. “You really have to earn it.”

As Mattituck coach Steve Van Dood put it, the Tuckers are “young, young and inexperienced.”

And by that, he meant inexperienced at the high school varsity level. They are not new to basketball.

“All the girls we have are all year-round players, every single one of them,” Van Dood said. “They all play the summer league, do the right things.”

Mattituck had the third-ranked offense in Suffolk County last season when it averaged about 54 points per game. What the Tuckers lost in height they have gained in speed. They are athletic and quick, which is why they will turn up the speed this season. That means steals, pressing defense and transition basketball. A new rule change requiring teams to advance the ball over the mid-court line in 10 seconds suits the Tuckers just fine.

“We can probably create some turnovers in the front court and do well that way,” Van Dood said. “It’s an exciting game to watch.”

Speaking of excitement, Dwyer is an exciting player to watch. Last season she was 14th in the county in scoring average with about 14 points per game.

“That’s going to be our player right there,” Van Dood said, looking on as Dwyer drove the lane for a layup during a scrimmage. “She is unbelievable.”

Sam Perino can shoot from the outside while Murphy and Kowalski provide an inside presence. Tiana Baker, who was the junior varsity team’s leading scorer last season, may also be a key figure in the offense.

The Tuckers, however, took a hit with the graduation of Allie Wilcenski, their top rebounder.

“They got to share the rebounding,” Van Dood said. “Allie was double-doubles every game almost last year, so we’re going to miss Allie on the boards.”

Murphy likes what she has seen from the team through the first several practices. “I think we look really good,” she said. “They have a lot of talent and a lot of potential to work with. … I’m excited for this season. I think we can do some great things.”

It wasn’t all that long ago when Kowalski was one of the newcomers on the team. Now she is one of the veterans.

“It’s different because Courtney, Katie and I, we kind of were the young ones a few years ago,” she said. “… It’s weird to think that we’re on the other end now.”

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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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09/10/12 7:27pm
09/10/2012 7:27 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck first singles player Molly Kowalski has won her first three matches this season in two sets, as has the rest of the team’s singles lineup.

TUCKERS 7, CLIPPERS 0

A tennis player needs more than just tennis equipment to succeed on the court. Along with a racket and a pair of sneakers, a winning player requires an intangible quality that cannot be seen or touched, but is most certainly noticed, a little something called mental toughness.

For all of its physical exertions, tennis can be an especially grueling mental game. Players are put to the test time and time again. Can a player stand up to the pressure of match point? Shrug off a mistake and move on to the next point? Deal with adversity? Handle distractions?

The Mattituck High School girls tennis team may have four players with that sort of mental toughness; at least coach Jim Christy thinks so. When it comes to the mental game, Christy proudly points to the four singles players in his lineup: junior Molly Kowalski, junior Kyra Martin, senior Kate Freudenberg and senior Caitlin Penny.

Based on their performance so far in this young season, it appears as if singles remains a strength for the Tuckers.

All four of them cruised to wins Monday when the Tuckers defeated Southold/Greenport, 7-0, at Mattituck High School. All four players have 3-0 records, with all of their wins being two-setters.

Defending league champion Mattituck is 3-0 overall and in Suffolk County League VIII. Southold/Greenport is 1-1, 1-1.

Christy described the mind-set of the foursome as being like this: “You’re going to have to play well to beat me because I’m not going to be sloppy. I’m not going to be giving up points. I’m going to make you earn the points that you win.”

That sort of attitude was evident Monday when the four Tuckers won by nearly identical scores. Kowalski, Martin and Penny earned 6-1, 6-1 wins, respectively, over Alexandra Small, Victoria Piechnik and Emily Hyatt. Freudenberg was a 6-0, 6-1 winner over Jamie Grigonis.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Alexandra Small of Southold/Greenport returning a shot against Mattituck’s Molly Kowalski during their first singles match.

They did this on an afternoon when the wind was gusting, playing games with the ball.

“It’s not easy when you’re playing in wind conditions,” Christy said. “All four of them, they don’t get distracted, whether it’s the wind, the noise or something else going on, it just doesn’t get inside their head.”

Kowalski’s play was typical of what Christy was talking about. She put 92 percent of her first serves in play, did not commit a double fault, and made a measly three unforced errors. It’s no wonder she outpointed Small, 54-25.

Asked about the value of mental toughness, Kowalski said, “It helps.”

Shannon Quinn, a junior who plays first doubles for Southold/Greenport, knows the importance of the mind game in tennis.

“It’s definitely a mental game over a physical game,” she said. “You have to have the right mind-set, definitely. The score can change so dramatically. You have to keep your mind in the game.”

Southold/Greenport coach Allison Krupski said a player’s mentality can have a “huge” impact on a match. “The mental game is sometimes even bigger than the physical game in tennis,” she said. “Momentum changes. It can have a huge affect on the psyche and the game can be over before you know it.”

Singles is new to Kowalski, who played first doubles last season with Freudenberg. It’s a different sort of game.

“In doubles you have someone else you can talk to in the match and to pump you up, but in singles it’s all yourself,” Kowalski said. “It comes from you.”

The most competitive matches on Monday were in first and second doubles. Mattituck’s No. 1 doubles team of Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny held off Quinn and Jessica Rizzo, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3. In second doubles, Christine Bieber and Sydney Goy prevailed over Abby Scharadin and Shannon Smith, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Third doubles also went Mattituck’s way, with Melissa Hickox and Morgan Wilsberg enjoying a 6-1, 6-0 defeat of Amy Kandora and Caroline Metz.

Mattituck’s top four singles players — the only returning players from last year’s team that went 17-1 — are also close in terms of talent. That makes for competitive practices, with the players making each other better.

Molly Kowalski, referring to Martin and herself, said: “We’ll play each other. I’ll win one time, she’ll win another time. It literally goes back and forth. So, any day, it can be any given person.”

So far, the four singles players have not disappointed.

“They have a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm,” Christy said. “They’re very social. They’re very nice, wonderful kids, but when they get onto the tennis court, they become very serious players. You know, that’s a real blessing. If someone does beat them, it’s going to be because they were very good.”

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