09/04/14 5:00pm
09/04/2014 5:00 PM
The Shoreham-Wading River High School tennis courts have been closed and locked since March after they were declared unsafe. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

The Shoreham-Wading River High School tennis courts have been closed and locked since March after they were declared unsafe. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

PREVIEW

No shortage of challenges face the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls tennis team this fall. For one thing, the Wildcats do not have the use of their home courts, which have fallen into serious disrepair and are unplayable. If that wasn’t enough, for the first time in seven years, they will be without Aimee Manfredo, one of the top players in the program’s proud history. (more…)

10/15/13 8:21pm
10/15/2013 8:21 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Aimee Manfredo said her backhand was the MVP of her strokes Tuesday when she won her third Division IV singles title.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Aimee Manfredo said her backhand was the MVP of her strokes Tuesday when she won her third Division IV singles title.

DIVISION IV INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

They don’t give out any trophies or medals for winning the Suffolk County Division IV girls tennis singles title, but Aimee Manfredo did bring home some intriguing spoils of victory Tuesday: the draw sheet of the tournament and a bag of candy corn — her favorite candy — given to her by her teammates.

“I have the draw sheets from every time I’ve won,” the three-time division champion said. “So it’s a nice little memory.”

Manfredo certainly also brought home some nice memories from William Floyd High School, as the Shoreham-Wading River senior culminated a brilliant tournament and performance with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Eastport/South Manor’s Jackie Bukzin. In her five tourney matches, Manfredo lost only four games.

Shoreham coach Debbie Lutjen called the win “very efficient. Awesome. Very few mistakes throughout the whole match. She kept herself in control the entire match.”

While she savored winning another league crown, Manfredo realized that she had yet another challenge looming over the horizon — the county championships at Smithtown East High School on Saturday and Monday.

“I think I’m going to rest tonight and then get back because I need to eat my candy corn, so I don’t think I should eat it and play tennis.” she said. “I’ll definitely be back [Wednesday].”

And then Manfredo will set her sights on winning her first county title. She reached the final last year.

“I expect a tougher draw because … [the division tournament] wasn’t really competition until the semis and finals,” she said. “That’s when I was really focused and tried to play my best tennis. I expect the counties will be every single match you will have to play your best match to get there. I really just have to hope that I am on my game that day.”

So does Lutjen, who has high hopes for Manfredo.

“Playing the way she played today, the sky’s the limit,” Lutjen said. “If she plays like this, she’s as good as anyone out there. She’s really playing well. She’s playing the best tennis of her career right now. That’s what you want. You want to be peaking at the right time going into the tournament. She’s playing with confidence and playing with a lot of maturity and control.”

Manfredo demonstrated that Tuesday, breaking Bukzin’s service four times.

“I played really well,” she said. “I warmed up really well. I felt I was hitting the ball great. Then I got into the match and I was so nervous because the last match I played against her went to three sets. It was: ‘Oh my gosh. It was going to be tough.’ I just came off hitting well on both sides. Nothing bothered me. In my last match, I had some issues. If I lost a game, I would be like, ‘Oh my God, you’re going to lose.’ But today, I don’t even remembering those two games. I just forgot about everything and played my game.”

The key to Manfredo’s game was a strong backhand.

“I loved my backhand today,” she said. “I think that was the MVP of my strokes. My backhand was really solid today and she tried to attack it. But I just got it back every single time. My forehand, I made more errors off of it, although I was winning points. I just felt more solid off my backhand and I could hit like 100 shots in a row. Hit it to my backhand, I’m hitting it back.”

In the doubles consolation match, Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Mike Clauberg found himself in the enviable and unique position of watching an encounter between a pair of friends and teammates from his own school. The M&Ms — Shannon Merker and Delaney Macchirole — defeated Z-squared — Jackie Zaweski and Micaela Zebroski, 6-3, 6-4.

“It’s great,” he said. “I’m just happy that we have four All-County selections, which I believe is the first time in school history. Both teams played really well today.”

09/04/13 10:00am
09/04/2013 10:00 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shannon Merker, Bishop McGann-Mercy’s senior captain, was called the best doubles player Mike Clauberg has ever coached.

PREVIEW

If this is the golden era of Bishop McGann-Mercy girls tennis, the shine on that gilt may be getting duller.

The Monarchs have enjoyed great success, reaching the playoffs the past five years and compiling a 55-7 league record during that time. Prior to last season, they had an unbeaten string at home that lasted for nearly five years.

All of that, of course, was not by happenstance.

“We put a lot of time into the program,” said coach Mike Clauberg, referring to elementary school, junior high school and summer camp programs.

Currently, two former McGann-Mercy players, Liz Rossi (Mount St. Mary’s) and Cassidy Lessard (Wagner), are playing in college. The Monarchs undoubtedly wish they still had them. Clauberg, who is in his 13th year as the team’s coach, said he sees a lot of holes in his lineup.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think we’re going to pull any miracles this year,” he said. “This is one of my most inexperienced teams in a lot of years.”

McGann-Mercy went 12-6 last year, reaching the Suffolk County Team Tournament quarterfinals for the third year in a row. Returning to that stage will not be easy, although Clauberg said qualifying for the playoffs is a realistic goal. A League VII team, McGann-Mercy is ranked fifth among League VII and League VIII teams by the coaches. The Monarchs face a tough schedule, too. They will play four of the top eight teams in Suffolk in league matches: William Floyd, East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson, Westhampton Beach and The Ross School.

Two seniors head McGann-Mercy’s returning cast, Shannon Merker and Jackie Zaweski. Merker, the team captain, played for the top two doubles teams as well as second singles last year. She was an all-division selection along with Jamie Lessard, a sophomore.

Speaking of Merker, Clauberg said, “She’s the best doubles player I ever coached.”

Delaney Macchirole, who played first doubles with fellow junior Micaela Zebroski last year, is also back. Magda Duda was part of the singles lineup last season at the No. 2 or No. 3 spot. Brittany Folkes played third doubles and fourth singles. Katie Brownfield was a third doubles player.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Clauberg said. “We’re going to be an underdog this year for the first time in a long time.”

 

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Aimee Manfredo returns for her sixth varsity season with a 63-19 career record with Shoreham-Wading River.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Aimee Manfredo returns for her sixth varsity season with a 63-19 career record with Shoreham-Wading River.

Shoreham-Wading River has produced some pretty good players over the years, such as Cath Galvin, who was a two-time county champion, and Jennifer LoRusso, who has a county title on her résumé as well. Aimee Manfredo ranks right up there with them, according to coach Debbie Lutjen, who has been coaching in the program since 1984.

Private lessons and the experience of playing in United States Tennis Association tournaments has made a difference. Manfredo brings a 63-19 career record into her senior season and sixth at the varsity level. The two-time Division IV singles champion was a county runner-up who went 17-1 last year.

Lutjen said Manfredo is “very strong, very motivated. I think she’s very excited about her senior season. She loves the game.”

Although the lineup was being finalized, Lutjen said two sisters, freshman Joelle Benigno and eighth-grader Daniella Benigno, will play second and third singles. Michelle Hoffmann, a sophomore, and junior Anna Simos were competing for the fourth singles position. Heather Sager, a sophomore who was the junior varsity team’s top singles player last year, is projected to be a doubles player.

Another sophomore, Katya Perricone, is ranked sixth among singles candidates and is expected to fill a doubles spot. She is new to the team along with junior McKenna Farrell, freshman Amanda Betiberis and sophomore Katie Stern.

“We have a strong group of girls,” said Lutjen.

Riverhead (7-9) finds itself in an interesting situation in terms of personnel.

“I lost a lot but …,” said coach Jerry Duvall, who at the same time conceded that his team returns a good deal of experienced players, many of them juniors.

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Lydia Keiffert is the favorite to play first singles.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Lydia Keiffert is the favorite to play first singles.

Since last year, Riverhead lost five players, all of whom were slotted in key lineup positions, and yet it’s not as if the Blue Waves can cry poverty. They still have seven players back who were in the lineup in 2012. That includes junior Lydia Keiffert, senior Michelle Behr and junior Katherine Chmielewski, who look destined for places in the singles lineup along with what Duvall referred to as “a player to be named later.”

That’s not a bad starting point. “Lydia, Michelle and Katherine are not bad singles players,” said Duvall.

Keiffert played first doubles and second singles last year behind the graduated Charlotte Palmer and seems poised to make the jump to first singles.

“She’s our most experienced singles player,” Duvall said. “She keeps the ball in play. She’s fast and runs real quick. She can make the other person run, too.”

Behr and Chmielewski both saw time at third and fourth singles, as did Samantha Carter, a junior.

Two juniors, Cassidy Brown and Abigail Wehunt, played a lot at first doubles and formed what Duvall called his most consistent doubles team. Another junior, Jessica Purick, has varsity experience as a doubles player.

Danielle Alaimo, a junior, and Amy Methven, a sophomore, are also returning players.

Courtney Troyan, a sophomore who was one of the top singles players on the junior varsity team last year, is a new addition. Perla Leon is a senior who can play doubles. Paired at doubles are juniors Kate Prjlaina and Danielle Alaimo, freshmen Taylor Marelli and Kathleen Gregory, and juniors Brianne Corwin and Stefanie Costello.

“These kids have great potential,” Duvall said. “They’re all gung-ho kids. They’re all anxious to play.”

Duvall said he appreciates the “team-first” attitude of his players. He said, “It may be the most unselfish team of players I’ve had the privilege to coach.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

09/07/11 11:10am
09/07/2011 11:10 AM

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Erica Blanco was a member of Bishop McGann-Mercy's first doubles team, which reached the third round of the Conference IV Tournament last year.

Coming off the biggest shock in his coaching life, Mike Clauberg declared that he isn’t making predictions any more.

After his Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs lost eight players from the previous season, Clauberg and the rest of the Suffolk County high school girls tennis world watched in amazement last year as the Monarchs advanced further in the county team tournament than they ever had before. Following upsets of the No. 9 seeded Patchogue-Medford Raiders and the No. 8 West Islip Lions in their first two playoff matches, the No. 24 Monarchs reached the quarterfinals before bowing out to the No. 1 Half Hollow Hills East Thunderbirds. It was a heady season for the Monarchs (16-3), who went unbeaten in League VII for their third straight league championship.

“I got to say that was pretty huge,” Clauberg said. “I think everybody was pretty shocked, players, the administration, myself. None of us believed we did as well as we did.”

It has been a wonderful run for the Monarchs. Their record over the past three years is 46-5. The team has built a reputation for itself and more than a few undoubtedly are wondering what the Monarchs have in store for 2011.

Well, coach?

“We’ll find out,” Clauberg said. “I think we should be able to compete. Whether we take last or we take first, I think we’ll be competitive.”

The Monarchs have been moved to League VIII, but that may not be a demotion. Clauberg said League VIII could be the second-best league in the county, with traditionally talented teams like the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes, the East Hampton Bonackers and the Southampton Mariners to contend with. To illustrate how well-respected the league is, Clauberg said the Monarchs could win only two or three regular-season matches and yet still receive the No. 8 seed in the county team tournament.

“This is going to make our girls better,” Clauberg said. “Now we’re competing at one of the toughest levels possible in Suffolk County. They’re putting us in the upper echelon of teams, and we’ll see where it plays out.”

Last year, the first doubles team of Erica Blanco and Kayleigh Macchirole reached the third round in the Conference IV Tournament, as did the second doubles pairing of Shannon Merker and Taryn Enck. While their partners have graduated, both Blanco, a senior, and Merker, a sophomore, are back.

Ashley Yakaboski, a senior who played first singles last year, and Cassidy Lessard, a junior who played third singles, were all-league selections.

Stephanie Blanco, who is Erica Blanco’s younger sister, also saw court time last year as did Caitlin Lawler and Marianne Naleski.

Alyssa Mize, Jackie Read, Terry Spath and Catherine Andes are also varsity veterans. Meanwhile, Jessica Allen, Sarah Guasp and Delaney Macchirole, Kayleigh’s younger sister, are new to varsity tennis.

While it may not be as strong as past McGann-Mercy teams, make no mistake, the Monarchs are still a team to be taken seriously.

“Even our players who don’t start, they’re good tennis players,” Clauberg said. “Our starting 10, they can all hit the ball.”

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Riverhead senior Sandra Ruttkayova has a firm hold on the first singles position.

The 2010 season was something of a surprise to the Riverhead Blue Waves (10-4) as well. Despite having many new players, the Blue Waves still finished in third place in League VIII.

“Hopefully, I’m going to have some surprises this year,” said Riverhead Coach Jerry Duvall.

With a roster full of tough names to spell that are even harder to pronounce, the Blue Waves head into the season with senior Sandra Ruttkayova entrenched in the first singles spot. Two former doubles players, Meyling Zuniga and Charlotte Palmer, are competing for the second singles position. Lydia Keiffert holds the fourth singles spot.

Keiffert and Palmer went 9-2 as a doubles team last season.

“Those first three players, any of them can win on a given day,” Duvall said, “so it’s a matter of how consistently they play.”

At the start of this week, Milena Chrzanowska and Yevgeniya Komzyuk were paired at first doubles. Juana Dobrzynski and Alex Quintana (who went 7-4 in her first year of varsity play) or Nicole Treadwell were considered for second doubles. Klaudia Szczesba may be in the mix at third doubles.

The Blue Waves return 10 players, seven of whom were in the lineup last year. Brittany Martens is one of the players who bring varsity experience.

Michelle Behr and Amber Nicholson are new to the team along with Szczesba.

“They played with no fear last year,” Duvall said of his players. “But the league isn’t any easier than it was last year.”
Duvall said League VIII has become “incredibly strong” with the additions of the Mattituck Tuckers and the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats.

“I want to see them advance and improve like they did last season,” Duvall said of his players. “They really love to drill and they couldn’t try any harder. You can’t ask for any more than that.”

Entering her fourth year of varsity tennis, Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Aimee Manfredo is ready to take the next step.

As a freshman last season, Manfredo took an undefeated record into the Conference IV Tournament before ultimately falling in the quarterfinals. She finished one round shy of advancing to the county tournament.

“She’s hitting even stronger this year,” said Shoreham Coach Debbie Lutjen. “Her goal should be to advance to the county tournament. I think she’s capable of that.”

Manfredo, 17-1 last year, is a year-round player who has a strong all-around game, Lutjen said.

“She has very solid ground strokes, but she’s also strong at the net,” Lutjen said. “She has strong approach shots and a good net game.”

Manfredo’s lone loss came against Erica Bundrick of Mattituck, whom she had beaten during the regular season.

With Manfredo locked into the first singles spot this season, a position she has held since eighth grade, it gives the Wildcats flexibility to try several different options throughout the rest of the lineup. Lutjen said many of the players could see time at both singles and doubles throughout the season.

The Wildcats have nine seniors on the team, including Nanette Stirpe, who saw time at both singles and doubles last season. She will likely play more singles this season. A newcomer to the varsity level, junior Natalia Rodriguez, will play singles. Junior Kiera Latham was a singles player on JV last year along with Rodriguez. She will play some singles this season as well as some doubles.

The first doubles team from last year’s JV team, seniors Ashley Etienne and Nicole Smith, also move up together to the varsity squad.

A returnee at doubles is junior Jaclyn La Sita, who may also play some singles as well. Seniors Brielle Mauder, Courtney Hauf and Emma Stoll all played doubles and are returners.

The youngest player on the team is freshman Anna Simos. Seniors Felicia Da Vollo, Teresa Terraccina, Soo Jin Lee and Kim Giacalone round out the Shoreham lineup.

The Wildcats are scheduled to open the League VIII season Friday at home against Rocky Point. Their first non-league match is Thursday against William Floyd.

“We should be competitive with the teams in our league,” Lutjen said.

Joe Werkmeister contributed to this article.
bliepa@timesreview.com