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.”

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


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.

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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.

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04/29/11 5:35pm
04/29/2011 5:35 PM

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.

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03/25/11 9:59pm
03/25/2011 9:59 PM

MASTIC BEACH — Contrary to what many people think, when a student leaves his or her classes for the day, the learning process does not stop.

Just ask the Riverhead High School boys tennis team. The Blue Waves’ season-opening match at William Floyd High School on Friday was a learning experience in so many ways.

On a cold and blustery March afternoon, the Blue Waves dropped their Suffolk County League VIII match to the Colonials, 6-1.

“Brutal weather,” Riverhead Coach Bob Lum said. “A little cold for tennis. But everyone hung in there, persevered, which was good. The wind is a factor. It’s as windy for them as it is for us.”

No one used the strong and unpredictable wind as an excuse, but it certainly did make for some unique adjustments and some reminders from Lum.

“You can coach them, give them some advice, shorten their strokes, shorten their backswing, finish their shots,” he said. “Once it gets windy out there and they’re not used to it, it takes its toll.”

For freshmen Brian Chinchilla and Tim Saletel, participating in a competitive tennis match was a completely new experience. Their introduction to the sport came several weeks ago when they tried out for the team. Their debut as a second doubles team was a 6-0, 6-0 defeat to Kings Park’s Nick Parris and Dylan Ernst.

“I was a little nervous at first,” Saletel said. “The key thing the coach told us was to relax, have fun, just go out there and play your best. If you lose, you lose. If you win, you win. Just give it all you got.”

Saletel said he “learned that competition is tough. There are other schools out there that are really good. I think the team we played together did really good. But that’s what you get for being one of the top two. We were the second doubles team. You get better competition. I just learned that I’ve got to step it up and maybe just improve for the next game.”

Chinchilla agreed.

“I learned that I still have a lot to learn and that I could get better if I actually try,” he said. “I can accomplish many things, I guess, if I work on it.”

The Blue Waves’ lone winner was senior Efe Erol, who bested Dhruv Patel, 8-6. 6-1.

“Things went great for me today,” Erol said. “At first I thought I would go out there and play hard. Then I went on a winning streak. Then I got a little nervous because I [thought I] can’t lose this now.”

In fact, he learned a thing or two about himself.

“It was really important to relax,” he said. “Relaxing was something I could never be because I was stressed out. I felt in my mind I was relaxed. … I stayed cool the whole time.”

Seth Conrad, the sophomore first singles player, was not as fortunate, losing to Kevin Ferguson, 6-3, 6-0.

“I do know what I could have done better,” Conrad said.

“Over time it comes to me. But when you play a game with other people, you see them do things. You have to figure out how to do them and how to react to them. It helps you figure out how you need to play, how you need to practice.”

Geoff Wells, a junior playing second singles, dropped a 6-0, 6-0 decision to Sebastian Alvarez.

Lum said he was “a little disappointed on the first and second singles. I thought they could do better. It was the first match, so we’ll see.”

The third singles player, junior John Rios, battled Ryan Kelly to three sets, but lost, 6-3, 2-6, 4-6.

The No. 1 doubles team of Andrew Plattner and Parker Ellis lost to Cory Paladino and Brandon Jiang, 6-3, 6-0, while the third doubles duo of Christian Aguire and Joe Inzalaco were downed by Tyler Fichtnero and Lenny Latendresse, 6-1, 6-0.

“The doubles teams have to get more consistent,” Lum said. “They still have to work together more.

“I was encouraged by the first doubles. They were coming to the net a lot. If they lost a point, it was at the net. That’s where I want them to lose points.”

03/16/11 10:28am
03/16/2011 10:28 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead senior Andrew Plattner played first doubles last year with Efe Erol.

Coach Bob Lum didn’t need much time to answer the question of what he likes best about his Riverhead High School boys tennis team. The answer: the team’s maturity.

“They have good sense of humors, but I don’t have to check them that much,” Lum said. “I like when I don’t have to baby-sit.”

Bob Lum, the baby-sitter, can take the season off while Bob Lum, the coach, does his thing.

Lum must also like the fact that he has seven returning players from last year’s team, three seniors among them. In his five years as the Blue Waves’ coach, he has never had that many returning players. “Seven helps,” he said.

At the same time, six of the 13 team members are first-time players who have picked up a racket for the first time.

Expected to be at the top of the lineup once again is sophomore Seth Conrad, who went 6-6 last year at first singles.

The Blue Waves (2-10) can also count on seniors Efe Erol and Andrew Plattner, who played first doubles last year. Another senior, Parker Ellis, played third doubles. The other returners — juniors John Rios and Geoff Wells and sophomore Patrick Corroll — were also doubles players.

Two of the new players, juniors Christian Aguirre and Joseph Inzalaca, may play doubles together. The team’s other new faces are junior John Weaver, sophomore Boris Capri and freshmen Jose Chinchilla and Timothy Saltel.

“They’re having a good time, and I’m inspired,” Lum said. “Wins and losses are nice, really nice, but that’s really determined by the kids themselves [and] the other teams. … Success to me is: Did my kids get better? Are they having a good time? Are they growing as human beings?”

“The wins, that’s extra,” he continued. “If they lose, they better learn from the losses because in life there’s losses. Do you learn from them? Hopefully they can get a lot of wins along the way. It’s always much more fun with wins.”

The season may be just getting underway, but it hasn’t taken Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats Coach Rich Muller long to figure out his team’s strength this season — doubles.

“My doubles I’m just loaded,” Muller said during practice Tuesday. “They’re good players and good kids, too.”

In a highly competitive League VII that includes teams like Westhampton Beach and The Ross School, the Wildcats (4-10) may not always match up skill-wise against the top competition. But Muller knows where his players have the advantage, and that’s in outhustling the other players.

“Shoreham has such good athletes and that takes you a long way when you’re playing tennis,” Muller said. “We hustle more than [Westhampton Beach and Ross] do; they just have the skill that defeats us. That can be frustrating in a lot of ways, but they don’t get frustrated.”

Ben Dalecki and Brian Cuzzo will play first doubles. Kyle Davis, a newcomer to the varsity level, will play with Matt Da Volio, who was at second singles last year. Ryan Buckley, who played first doubles last year, will play with a new partner this year, Kevin Galligan, at mostly third doubles.

Buckley said playing doubles comes down to strategizing.

“You have to do things you’re not used to,” he said. “It really challenges you because in singles you can hang back and attack the net, where in doubles you’re put in a position based on what your opponents do or your partner does.”

The Wildcats have a seventh grader, Chris Kunule, who could see time in singles. “He’s very, very good,” Muller said.

The Wildcats singles players include Louis Bamonte, Tyler Yaskinsch, Justin Laino and Pete Deleon.

Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.

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03/14/11 8:26pm
03/14/2011 8:26 PM

BOB LIEPA FILE PHOTO | Seth Conrad is in his third varsity season and second year as Riverhead's No. 1 singles player — and he's still only a sophomore.

What is interesting, even more than the fact that Seth Conrad was a first singles player for the Riverhead High School boys tennis team last year as a freshman, is how far Conrad has progressed in a relatively short period of time.

Conrad said he first started hacking around with a tennis racket when he was in second grade. “I don’t know if I’d really count that because I wasn’t too good,” he said.

That cannot be said of Conrad any more, though. Since taking up tennis competitively as a seventh grader, he has made great strides. After the middle school team disbanded, Conrad won a spot on the varsity team as an eighth grader at second singles and gained a tennis education.

“In eighth grade I feel I progressed very much because I was constantly surrounded by people who had been playing many years longer than I had, and it was just a great opportunity to play year round with a whole variety of people,” he said after Monday’s practice.

Under the careful tutelage of Riverhead Coach Bob Lum, Conrad put in extra work and it has helped. Last year, in his first season at first singles, Conrad posted a respectable 6-6 record.

“Last year I thought he was going to have a lot more trouble than he did,” Lum said. “There were some bumps along the way and he took them well. He made some adjustments.”

The right-handed Conrad did so while contending with physical ailments. He played the entire 2010 season with a torn muscle in his right shoulder that wasn’t diagnosed until after the season. Conrad, who tore the muscle while lifting weights before the season, said that after three months of physical therapy, his shoulder is “much better.”

What he sees as a bigger issue are his knees. He said physical therapy is helping him with a problem in which his kneecaps are pulled out of place.

All of this hasn’t stopped Conrad from playing tennis every week since October and running cross-country and winter track in order to maintain his stamina.

When Lum first met Conrad as a seventh grader, Conrad was a different person, not to mention player. “He was immature,” Lum said. “There were things he had to learn.”

At the same time, Lum said he knew he had a player on his hands because Conrad used his head when he played. “I could tell right away because he was patient,” Lum said. “He wasn’t one of these kids who tries to kill everything. Young guys, they want to hit everything hard … but he knew in order to win, let’s just get it back. That’s a big hurdle.”

Conrad said he attacks the net more than he used to and tries to be consistent.

“I guess I would have to say I’m a fairly consistent hitter and I’m light on my feet, so as long as I can get to the ball and hit it in, that’s all that really matters,” he said. “As you progress, you learn more difficult shots and different angles, spins. I would just like to learn as much as I can, but not all at once. I would like to learn one thing new and practice it 10,000 times until it’s perfect.”

Lum said the number one thing for Conrad to work on is his footwork. Ironically, it is Conrad’s other qualities that have hampered his footwork.

“What’s wrong with his footwork is he’s already quick and he’s got good balance, so he doesn’t think he needs to work on his footwork, so he’s actually hampering his own potential by his own ability,” Lum said. “His ability is holding him back.”

Conrad has welcomed the opportunity to play first singles, pitting his skills against the best the opposing team has to offer.

“I like it,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to play with people who are much better than I, and that’s the best way to improve. I feel as if I’ve improved, but there’s only one way to see that.”

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