The Bishop McGann-Mercy girls tennis team begins the 2016 season in new digs at the Keith Goodale Memorial Tennis Courts. The upgraded facility, funded through donations from the Goodale and Kappenberg families, now features six courts instead of four.
The Monarchs, who went undefeated in League VIII last year — the lower half of Division IV — and advanced into the county playoffs, will return a mixed roster this year after losing their top singles player to graduation.
“I’m mostly senior strong,” said Mercy coach Mike Clauberg. “But I have about five underclassmen that start that are young.”
The youngest member of the roster, seventh-grader Rose Hayes, should find time in the singles lineup. Freshman Sophia Anzalone will also find time playing singles. Senior Margaret Terry, the team captain, and freshman Kelsey Bundrick are both returning players who play singles.
A few players will likely mix into singles and doubles depending on certain matchups, Clauberg said.
Freshman Jamie Densieski and senior Angelika Osiniak, a returning All-Division player, can both play either singles or doubles. Osiniak will likely start at first doubles along with sophomore Brooke Kappenberg.
The Monarchs will have several seniors to fill out the remaining doubles combinations, including Madison O’Connor and Laura Blomberg, a returning All-League player.
Clauberg said he expects Center Moriches and Shoreham-Wading River to be among the top competition this year vying for the league title. The Monarchs were scheduled to play at home Wednesday against Southold/Greenport to officially kick off the season.
Much like McGann-Mercy, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats (7-6 last year) will be play on a much-improved court. This season will mark the first full season for the Wildcats after their new courts were finished shortly after last season began. Before that, the team spent a season playing all its home matches on the road at Longwood Middle School.
This season, the Wildcats return a trio of upperclassmen who will make up the top four singles spots. Jillian Dinowitz, a junior All-League player, will start the year at first singles followed up by Jackie Colalillo and Kara Gately, both juniors, at the second and third spots. Jackie Pitts, a returning All-League senior, will start at fourth singles, according to coach Debbie Lutjen.
“Jillian has a powerful and consistent forehand and backhand and Jackie has great speed and agility on the court,” Lutjen said.
Senior Amanda De Tiberiis, an All-League player, and junior Alice Van Wickler may also find time at the singles spots. They’ll form a first doubles team as well.
A seventh-grader will play on varsity this year in Cartherine Erb. She’ll start at second doubles with sophomore Brianna Arabio. Third doubles will start with juniors Danielle Amato and Emily Nisky. The final doubles team of senior Anastasia Guarnari and junior Sienna Trotto will challenge for playing time.
“Our team is close and supportive of one another on and off the court,” Lutjen said. “Our singles and doubles are very balanced and will push one another to improve and be better players.”
Lutjen said the league should be competitive from top to bottom this year and the Wildcats will challenge several teams for the top spot.
The Riverhead Blue Waves posted a 2-8 record in League VIII last year and should be improved this season, rival coaches said.
The Blue Waves had a new coach last season for the first time since the early 1990s and will feature another new face in Rosaleen D’Orsogna. She could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.
The Blue Waves will open the season today, Sept. 8, on the road at Eastport-South Manor.
Photo caption: Mercy sophomore Brooke Kappenberg at a recent practice. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)