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04/22/14 6:59pm
04/22/2014 6:59 PM
Riverhead freshman Jens Summerlin in action against Southold/Greenport senior Dylan Stromski on Tuesday. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Riverhead freshman Jens Summerlin in action against Southold/Greenport senior Dylan Stromski on Tuesday. (Credit: Garret Meade)

CLIPPERS 7, BLUE WAVES 0

Dylan Stromski had a choice to make before the high school boys tennis season started. The Southold/Greenport senior, who was an All-County doubles player last year along with Will Richter, had the choice of remaining at doubles or switching to singles. Doubles would have been the safe pick, but Stromski opted to play singles for the first time since he was a freshman.  (more…)

04/07/14 8:46pm
04/07/2014 8:46 PM
Parker Tuthill brought Mattituck one of its three wins at singles, defeating Shoreham-Wading River's Brandon Porcele in two sets. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Parker Tuthill brought Mattituck one of its three wins at singles, defeating Shoreham-Wading River’s Brandon Porcele in two sets. (Credit: Garret Meade)

TUCKERS 4 1/2, WILDCATS 2 1/2

Tiebreakers in tennis are pressure situations. Tiebreakers in a decisive third set are even tougher still.

With a light rain falling on a wet court and a chill hanging in the air, Ty Bugdin and Sean Granberg felt the heat. Then they responded. (more…)

03/12/14 11:00am
03/12/2014 11:00 AM
Riverhead captain Steve Velasquez and his teammates enjoyed a break in the weather during Tuesday's practice. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Riverhead captain Steve Velasquez and his teammates enjoyed a break in the weather during Tuesday’s practice. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Early preseason practices can be stressful enough for high school boys tennis coaches who feel the pressure of the clock as they hurry to ready their teams for the coming season. Positions need to be filled, challenge matches need to be played and lineups need to be determined, all with the sense that the calendar is working against them. The date of that first match gets closer by the day.  (more…)

05/06/13 7:26pm
05/06/2013 7:26 PM

Thirty-two tennis players made up the field of the Division IV singles tournament at William Floyd High School. When Shoreham-Wading River freshman Chris Kuhnle began his final match of the tournament Monday afternoon, it was only fitting his opponent happened to be the one player he’s faced the most in his career, Andrew Reiley of Eastport-South Manor.

“I’ve definitely had the most matches against him,” Kuhnle said.

It was no surprise then when the two players dug through a long, grinding first set in the consolation final Monday for third place in Division IV. On an adjacent court, the first-place match was already wrapped up before Kuhnle and Reiley reached the conclusion of set one.

When it was over, Kuhnle emerged the victor, taking the tiebreaker 7-4 to give himself a much needed deep breath before the second set.

“He gives me a good match,” Kuhnle said. “He’s a good pair up against my game. We kind of clash. I’m a variation and he likes to keep it consistent.”

Kuhnle raced out a 3-0 lead in the second set before Reiley got it back to within one at 4-3. But he bounced back to secure the final two points and put the match away, securing third place for the second straight year.

Both players advance to the county tournament beginning this weekend at Smithtown East High School. The top four finishers from each division earn a spot at counties to make up the 16-player field.

It was the second straight year Kuhnle and Reiley, a senior, faced in the division consolation final. Kuhnle won last year as well.

Coming into the tournament Kuhnle said his goal was to make it to the semifinals and secure a spot in the county tournament.

“I was hoping maybe to get to the finals,” he said. “I beat the kid I played in the semis a few days before, but it was a really good match. He had a really good day.”

Kuhnle lost to Kevin Cino of Westhampton Saturday, 6-0, 6-3. Kuhnle had beaten him April 29 in a regular season match.

But on a windy day Saturday, the bigger Cino had the advantage with his strong serve.

“Someone hitting that powerful is a little tough for me to hit back,” Kuhnle said. “Especially when he had the wind it was like playing two times harder.”

The No. 2 seed in the bracket, Kuhnle won three matches — all in straight sets — to advance to the semifinals.

At some points during Monday’s match, when the play began to get away from Kuhnle, he would try to rally himself by yelling at himself on the court.

“I’m just a young and it’s a way to get my thoughts out,” he said, smiling after the match was over. “It keeps my focused. I’ll have to find a better way to do that in the future.”

Last year Kuhnle won his first match at the county tournament and he’ll look to take it one step further this time.

No matter he ends up in the bracket, the competition will be stiff when the top players from the county convene for one tournament.

“Other kids I know from tournaments, they’re very good players,” Kuhnle said. “It’s going to be a lot tougher there.”

The Wildcats had three doubles teams play in the division tournament. The duo of Tom Stridiron and Nick West won their first match before losing. And the doubles team of Doug and Charles DeMaio won its first match before losing.

Top-seeded Cooper Lacetera of Westhampton won the singles title Monday against his teammate, Cino.

joew@timesreview.com

04/08/13 6:10pm
04/08/2013 6:10 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's first singles player, Garrett Malave, ran his record to 4-0 on Monday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s first singles player, Garrett Malave, ran his record to 4-0 on Monday.

TUCKERS 7, BLUE WAVES 0

Like updated computer software or the latest release of a video game, the 2013 version of Garrett Malave, the tennis player, can be advertised as bigger and better.

It’s fun to watch Malave play tennis — unless you’re the player he’s playing against.

Malave, a freshman in his second year as Mattituck’s first singles player, is one of the better players in Suffolk County and quite possibly the best in League VIII. Physical maturity has something to do with that.

“Little boys grow up,” said Mattituck coach Mike Huey.

And young players grow into their game.

Malave said he has worked on his footwork and is doing more bending to return low shots. The results so far speak for themselves. Malave, along with two of the team’s other top three singles players, Parker Tuthill and Andrew Young, all raised their records to 4-0 Monday with wins in the Tuckers’ 7-0 defeat of visiting Riverhead.

As expected, Malave was impressive, using 17 service aces and 14 winners to help him to a 6-0, 6-2 win over eighth grader Jens Summerlin in a first-singles match that was completed in 43 minutes. Malave limited Summerlin to only 5 points in the first set, which was over in 15 minutes.

Putting 86 percent of his second serves in play, Malave committed only three double faults.

Summerlin, who earned Riverhead’s top singles position after senior Seth Conrad sprained an ankle, has had an eye-opening experience. Monday’s match was only his second at No. 1 singles, and it was an education for him. He said he had never played against a player of Malave’s caliber before.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead eighth grader Jens Summerlin has worked his way to the first singles position following an ankle injury suffered by senior Seth Conrad.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead eighth grader Jens Summerlin has worked his way to the first singles position following an ankle injury suffered by senior Seth Conrad.

“He plays very well, a lot of topspin on his balls, and his serve was just outrageous,” Summerlin said. “I could barely handle it.”

To his credit, Summerlin produced some nice shots of his own, and won back-to-back games in the second set to pull to within 3-2. But Malave’s quality was too much for the young Riverheader.

“He’s grown up, and he’s getting bigger, stronger and faster, and he’s making those adjustments,” Huey said of Malave. “As you can see, he doesn’t get cheated on his swing. He’s going for broke on every single shot.”

Plus, Malave has something else in his favor. He has talented teammates in Tuthill and Young, who give him good competition in practice.

“They have the ability to play Garrett tough, so every practice is a challenging practice,” Huey said. “He doesn’t get any days off. He’s got to work hard and he’s pushed every single day, and that makes you match tough.”

Tuthill and Young turned in two-set wins as well. Tuthill, playing second singles, blanked Nick Toharz, 6-0, 6-0, and Young beat Steve Velasquez, 6-1, 6-0.

Thomas Chatin (3-1) brought Mattituck (4-0 overall and in League VIII) a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Dillon Fava Wiggins at fourth singles.

The two-set theme continued in the three doubles matches, which were also swept by Mattituck: Charles Hickox and Kevin Schwartz defeated Mike Haynia and Kyle Helgans, 6-1, 6-2; James Rabkevich and Steve Urwand recorded a 6-0, 6-2 win over Kurt Divan and Edgar Garcia; and Nick Rabkevich and Tyler Rozhen downed Nick Giannillo and Jordy Perez, 6-0, 6-0.

Mattituck was coming off a significant 4-3 triumph over Longwood on Friday, a result that gave the defending league champion the inside track on this year’s league crown.

“That was huge for us,” said Huey.

Nick Rabkevich, playing in his first varsity match, and Rozhen provided the decisive point, getting the better of Longwood’s Jon Cruz and Matt Covati, 6-3, 6-2, at third doubles. Malave did his part that day, scoring a 6-1, 6-2 result over Indranel Mitra.

The temporary loss of Conrad is one Riverhead (0-4, 0-4) can ill afford. The team’s three returning players from last year are the only ones with any prior tennis-playing experience at all.

Riverhead coach Bob Lum said he hoped to have Conrad back in a week or so. In the meantime, Summerlin is getting a tennis education at first singles.

“He is talented,” Lum said of Summerlin, whose older brother Adrian and older sister Robyn both played for Riverhead. “It’s just that he needs some drive time out there. He needs to play more. It’s a learning process. There are no shortcuts. You’re going to have to get a beating now and then if you want to get good.”

Malave can relate what it’s like since he, too, played first singles as an eighth grader. “You’re versing the best tennis player in every school,” he said.

Summerlin, asked how he thought he did Monday, replied, “Not that well.”

Surely, though, there are better days ahead for him. Malave thinks so.

“He has really nice form,” Malave said. “I just feel that once he gets stronger, he’ll be able to return a lot of balls. He’s going to be good in a few years, like really good.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

03/13/13 11:00pm
03/13/2013 11:00 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River's Chris Kuhnle, a freshman in his third varsity year, fell one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament in 2012.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River’s Chris Kuhnle, a freshman in his third varsity year, fell one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament in 2012.

The more the merrier.

That could be the motto for the Shoreham-Wading River boys tennis team. Coach Rich Muller said he will probably carry 20 players on his team. That is a large squad for a sport that provides lineup positions for 10 players, but Muller said that in keeping so many players, he is looking toward the future — their future.

Muller said Shoreham-Wading River is the sort of school district in which students like to get involved in extracurricular activities, and he’s fine with doing what he can to help them. “They come out, they want to play,” he said. “It’s such a lifetime sport. It’s something that they can do forever.”

Without question, first and foremost among the pack for the Wildcats (1-11 last year) is freshman first singles player Chris Kuhnle. Kuhnle, who joined the team as a seventh grader, posted a 9-3 record last year and fell one agonizing win short of a place in the New York State tournament.

“He’s definitely worth watching,” Muller said. “He’s flashy, tough, keeps the ball in the court, tries to draw your mistakes out. He’s been progressing.”

In addition to Kuhnle’s talents as a player, Muller said he is also an ideal teammate.

Two brothers, freshman Doug DeMaio and senior Charles DeMaio, will most likely make up the first doubles team. The second doubles team may consist of two juniors, Tom Stridiron and Nick West, former singles players who were paired up together halfway through last season.

Three juniors promoted from the junior varsity team will push for singles spots: Craig Schmitt, Ryan Schmitt and Christian Suarez.

Muller has recruited two golfers from the Shoreham-Wading River golf team that he coaches. He said juniors Matt Hauser and Mike Raimondo may play second or third doubles.

Playing in League VII along with powerhouses such as Westhampton Beach, Southampton and William Floyd, Shoreham-Wading River will have its work cut out.

“If we break .500, I think we’ll be O.K,” Muller said. “We just try to stay in the middle of it.”

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Seth Conrad, a fifth-year varsity veteran, is Riverhead's first singles player for the third straight year.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Seth Conrad, a fifth-year varsity veteran, is Riverhead’s first singles player for the third straight year.

In his six years as Riverhead’s coach, Bob Lum has never had a team with such little experience. “This team is the biggest challenge I’ve had,” he said.

Yes, challenge would be the right word. The Blue Waves (0-12) have only three returning players. That’s it. And those three, by the way, are the only ones with prior experience in the sport.

Lum could see the writing on the wall with the loss of eight players from last year’s team. “It wasn’t a surprise because I knew the situation last year,” he said. “I knew we were going to be behind the eight ball.”

Seth Conrad, a senior who went 7-4 in first singles last year and reached the Suffolk County Conference IV Tournament, is entering his fifth varsity season and third as the team’s first singles player.

“He had a good season,” Lum said. “The competition for number one was pretty stiff last year and I expect this year to be even better. He’s a smart player. He knows how to adjust his game to different players.”

The only other veterans are sophomore Steven Velasquez and freshman Dillon Fava-Wiggins. They both played third doubles last year.

And then there are a bunch of tennis newcomers. Among them are seniors Kyle Helgans, Shane Ford, Michael Hayhia and Alexander Albecht, junior Nicholas Tokarz, sophomore Edgar Garcia and freshmen Kurt Vivan and Dennis Kenter.

“What I do like about the new kids coming in is they are coming in with a good attitude, and quite a few of them are good athletes,” Lum said. “The whole part I like best is teaching them, teaching them to enjoy the process.”

“I would say it’s going to be a challenge,” he added, “but you know what, you throw your hat in the ring and you give it a shot and you see what happens.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

04/30/12 6:07pm
04/30/2012 6:07 PM

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.

bliepa@timesreview.com

03/23/12 9:00pm
03/23/2012 9:00 PM

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Seth Conrad won a three-set match at first singles Friday afternoon against Longwood.

After losing the opening set at first singles 6-3 Friday afternoon, Riverhead junior Seth Conrad knew he needed to step up his effort.

Conrad bounced back to win the next two, 6-3, 6-1, against Dave Barlow of Longwood for the lone Blue Waves’ victory in a 6-1 loss at Longwood High School.

The Blue Waves dropped to 0-2 to start the season in League VIII. It was the second victory for Conrad, who’s in his fourth year playing varsity for Riverhead. It’s his third year holding down first singles.

The Blue Waves lost the other six matches, including a forfeit at third doubles. Several players hadn’t reached the required number of practices to participate in a match.

John Rios lost 6-0, 6-2 at second singles against Jake Maccaro. Joseph Inzalaco lost 6-0, 6-3 at third singles against Anthony Deitz. Christian Aquirre lost 6-2, 6-0 at fourth singles against Indramel Mitra.

The first doubles team of Tim Saletel and Clive Williams lost 6-0, 6-1 and Danny Chafkin and Ben Stern lost 6-1, 6-1.

joew@timesreview.com