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.

bliepa@timesreview.com

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.

bliepa@timesreview.com

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.”

bliepa@timesreview.com