TUCKERS 7, BLUE WAVES 0
Mattituck is not your typical high school boys tennis team. For one thing, not many teams have three eighth-graders and a freshman in their singles lineup. For another, the undefeated Tuckers are Suffolk County League VIII champions for a second straight year.
Mattituck’s 7-0 defeat of Southold/Greenport last Wednesday, coupled with Longwood’s defeat of Rocky Point the same day, left the Tuckers (11-0, 11-0) with their eighth league title and second since 2000. Last year marked their first title as a League VIII team.
“Well, it’s awesome because now we get to go to the playoffs, and everyone goes to the county tournament,” one of the team’s eighth-graders, first singles player Garrett Malave, said. “I was definitely confident that we were going far because I know last year we lost a lot of seniors, but I did have hope. I knew other teams lost seniors, too, so it was not just us.”
An injection of youth gave the Tuckers new life this season. The eighth-graders — Malave (10-1), Parker Tuthill (10-1) and Thomas Chatin (7-4) — as well as freshman Andrew Young (11-0) have been instrumental.
“I’ve had a lot of young players playing on the varsity level [before], but not this many,” said coach Mike Huey, who started coaching the Tuckers in 1976. “I knew it was all a matter of how the younger kids developed, and obviously they developed very well.”
The unbeaten record may be somewhat misleading. The Tuckers had some close matches, including a pair of 4-3 wins over Longwood.
“It was definitely a challenge to get here,” said Malave.
Mattituck faced less of a challenge on Monday when it defeated Riverhead by a 7-0 score for the second time this season. The Tuckers, playing their first match since learning they had clinched first place, were in total control at Riverhead High School. Mattituck lost only three games in the four singles matches.
Malave defeated Seth Conrad, 6-1, 6-1. Tuthill trounced his second singles opponent, John Rios, 6-0, 6-0. That was the same score that Chatin posted in his defeat of Dillon Fara-Wiggins at fourth singles. Young registered a 6-0, 6-1 defeat of Tim Saletel at third singles.
Mattituck’s first doubles team of Stefen Kuehn and Austin Tuthill brought their record to 10-0 with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Christian Aquirre and Joe Inzalac.
The No. 2 doubles team of Graham Homan and James Rabkevich improved its record to 9-2 by scoring a 6-0, 6-0 win over Steve Velasquez and Clive Williams.
Because Riverhead (0-10, 0-10) had only eight players available, it forfeited third doubles to Mattituck’s Dan Salice and Kevin Schwartz, who are 8-3.
Riverhead coach Bob Lum said his team certainly needs more depth. The Blue Waves have 12 players on their roster, including one injured player. Four of the team members started playing tennis only five weeks ago.
Lum said his players need a better understanding of the off-season commitment required to keep up with opposing teams.
“What they have to learn is how much work is needed,” Lum said. “This is not a, ‘O.K., let’s play for two months and that’s it.’ If you want to compete, you have to play for more than two months out of the year. You have to practice for more than two months out of the year, and then you can see what happens. If you only give something two months out of the year, it doesn’t take too much effort from the other team to come beat you. All they have to do is practice three months out of the year.”
The team losses aside, Conrad said it is a “great season,” and he is enjoying playing alongside his teammates. “There’s a competitive side of me that wants the team to get better, but more importantly, personally, I wish everyone had the outlook that I do,” he said. “I just want to have fun. It’s the love of the sport. I don’t think it should be something taken so seriously that you can’t enjoy it. I try to enjoy it as much as I can.”
The Tuckers have a lot to enjoy. With their young players, they should be a force for years to come. In Malave, they have one of the league’s finest talents, a player capable of making remarkable shots.
“I think Garrett can play with anybody,” Huey said. “He’s got a lot of confidence and he goes for his shots, and he’s playing good tennis right now.”
Others have obviously helped. Young, though, has been something of a wild card. Last year he played junior high school baseball before turning to tennis this year.
“Andrew Young was probably my biggest surprise,” Huey said. “I didn’t even know he existed.”
Young and his young teammates, however, are quickly making a name for themselves.