BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Jeff Strider brought Mattituck a point at second singles, beating Riverhead's Efe Erol, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.
The league championship is already in their hands, and pizza is on the way.
A lot was on the line when the Mattituck Tuckers played the defending league champion William Floyd Colonials on Wednesday. For one thing, the match had significant implications on the race for the Suffolk County League VIII boys tennis championship. And then there was the promise made to the Tuckers of a pizza party if they won.
Things didn’t start well for the Tuckers in the match, which saw them trailing by 3-1. On top of that, the first set of each of the remaining three individual matches went William Floyd’s way. No matter, first-place Mattituck came back and won, topping second-place William Floyd for the second time this season by a 4-3 score.
“That was amazing,” said Mattituck senior Connor Davis.
The result really shouldn’t come as a great surprise because that is what the Tuckers do. They win.
That triumph set up Mattituck’s 6-0 title-clinching victory over the Hampton Bays Baymen at Red Creek Park on Thursday (the match was stopped early because of a downpour). Mattituck Coach Mike Huey said it was his team’s first title as a League VIII team.
“Our kids stepped up big time,” he said. “It’s been a while. We had a little drought there, so it’s special to come back and win one again.”
The newly crowned league champions continued their march toward an unbeaten regular season on Friday when they scored another road win, 6-1 over the Riverhead Blue Waves. It was Mattituck’s 11th win in as many matches, overall and in the league.
“It would be cool if we went undefeated,” said Mattituck senior Joe Pfaff.
BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Seth Conrad's clean play has helped him to a 7-2 record at first singles for Riverhead this season.
The Tuckers have two regular-season matches remaining: on Monday at home against the Rocky Point Eagles and on Wednesday in a non-league contest at Westhampton Beach.
Chemistry, depth and interchangeable parts have given Mattituck the stuff of champions.
“We’re just really deep,” Pfaff said. “We can move players around, and anyone can play anywhere. We match up well against all the other schools. We’ve hardly played with the same lineup.”
And it has worked. It surely did Friday.
Mattituck’s first doubles team of Davis and Pfaff prevailed in the only three-set match of the day. After dropping the first set in a 7-5 tiebreaker, they took the next two sets, 6-1, 6-1, from Patrick Carroll and Geoff Wells.
Meanwhile, Mattituck seventh-graders Garrett Malave and Parker Tuthill, each a Wunderkind in his own right, continued their fine form. Malave brought his season record to 11-0 by breezing past his third-singles opponent, John Rios, 6-0, 6-0. Tuthill (10-1), playing fourth singles, handled Christian Aguirre, 6-1, 6-1.
Jeff Strider of Mattituck was a 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 winner over Efe Erol at second singles.
Mattituck completed its sweep of the doubles matches through Kevin Reyer and Austin Tuthill (6-2, 6-1 over Parker Ellis and Andrew Plattner) and Jack Baglivi and Gram Homan (6-1, 6-1 over Bryan Chinchilla and Tim Salete).
Riverhead’s first singles player, Seth Conrad, brought the Blue Waves their only point of the day. The sophomore played a clean game in his 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Casey Ciamaricone. Conrad committed no double faults, going 12 for 12 on his second serves, and made only five unforced errors to 13 by Ciamaricone.
“That’s exactly him,” Riverhead Coach Bob Lum said of Conrad. “He’s not giving a lot of stuff away.”
Ciamaricone berated himself, once dropping his racket in disgust after a miscue. He got no help from Conrad, who raised his record to 7-2 by playing close to an error-free game with some nice shots sprinkled in.
“I think the most important thing is to be able to hit the ball inbounds where you want it,” said Conrad, who put 71 percent of his first serves in play. “If you can get to every ball and hit it where you want it, that’s all that really matters.”
Riverhead dropped to 2-8, 2-8, but Lum said he can’t complain. He said his players are “always showing improvement, so I can’t ask for more than that.”
Mattituck is closing in on an undefeated regular season, something Huey can remember his team doing only once before. In addition, the Tuckers have the playoffs to prepare for. They have finished as high as third in the county on two occasions. Their playoff seeding could say a lot about how far they go this year.
Pfaff said, “Going into the season, I didn’t think we would do this well, but we really came together as a team, and everyone’s playing good right now.”
They also have a party to look forward to. Pizza is coming.