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…)

12/24/13 7:00am
12/24/2013 7:00 AM
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 | Shoreham-Wading River senior Aimee Manfredo.

Shoreham-Wading River senior Aimee Manfredo joined an elite group this fall when she won her third straight division championship in tennis.

It was just the beginning for the Bradley University-bound tennis star. She went on to win the county singles title and remained undefeated heading into the state championship. She became only the third girl in Shoreham history to win a county singles title.

At the state championship, Manfredo advanced into the semifinals before dropping her first match of the season. She closed out the season with a fourth-place finish in the tournament.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

11/06/13 5:00pm
11/06/2013 5:00 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, shown here during the division championship, placed fourth in the state singles tournament, which concluded Monday.

On Tuesday night Aimee Manfredo attended the all-county girls tennis dinner, where she received her hardware for winning the Section XI singles title. It was a rare day off for the Shoreham-Wading River senior, who a day earlier competed in the consolation final of the state championship in Latham, N.Y.

“Today was my break, so tomorrow I go back to training,” Manfredo said.

No time for rest, even with the season behind her.

On Monday Manfredo wrapped up a brilliant career at Shoreham. A six-year varsity player, she completed her best individual finish, placing fourth in the state singles tournament. She lost to Olga Ostrovetsky of Wallkill, 6-4, 6-1, in the consolation final to finish her varsity career with an 89-21 record. She was undefeated heading into the state championship and finished the season 26-2.

“Everything went really well,” she said. “It was a good way to end the season.”

Manfredo won three matches to advance into the semifinals before she fell to second-seeded Sabrina Barisano of Ursuline School, 6-1, 6-1.

Manfredo won her first two matches easily Saturday in straight sets. In the quarterfinals Sunday she fought one of her toughest matches of the year, a three-setter against sixth-seeded Taylor Cosme of Herricks, the Nassau county champion. Manfredo won the first set, 6-3, but then lost the second 6-7 (5).

“In the second set I think I tried to end it too quickly, because I had a couple match points,” Manfredo said. “I got too excited, so in the third set I just really focused on playing my game and just playing every point like it’s the last.”

She bounced back to take the third set, 6-4, assuring herself a spot on the podium as an all-state finisher.

“After I got to the semis I felt like I could breathe,” she said.

The only problem for Manfredo was after the stirring, three-set win, she had just 45 minutes to recoup before having to play her semifinal match. That differed from a United States Tennis Association match, which would have provided 75 minutes between matches, she said.

In the consolation final Monday, Manfredo battled Ostrovetsky tight in the first set.

“In the first set we just didn’t break each other’s serves until it was 5-4 her,” Manfredo said. “Then she got the first break point and converted it. But she played really well.”

Manfredo’s season was the second best individual performance in school history behind Cath Galvin’s second-place finish, according to coach Debbie Lutjen.

“She joined an elite group of players,” Lutjen said.

Manfredo will now prepare for her college career starting next fall at Bradley University. She’ll be back on the courts this week, but not before she allowed herself one luxury.

“I did get mani-pedis, so that was good,” she said.

joew@timesreview.com

10/21/13 6:47pm
10/21/2013 6:47 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Aimee Manfredo and coach Debbie Lutjen after Monday’s Section XI singles final.

SECTION XI CHAMPIONSHIP

As the final ball shot off Aimee Manfredo’s racket and whipped over the net, landing just inside the sideline, the Shoreham-Wading River senior clenched her left hand into a fist and exhaled an enthusiastic “YES!”

Over her six-year varsity career, every moment had been leading up to this.

At last, Manfredo stood alone as the top player in Suffolk County. After falling in the finals of the Section XI Championship last year as a junior, Manfredo delivered a near flawless performance over four matches this year. In the finals Monday afternoon at Smithtown East High School, Manfredo defeated the talented youngster Jackie Bukzin of Eastport-South Manor, 6-3, 6-2.

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Manfredo defeated Jackie Bukzin of Eastport-South Manor, 6-3, 6-2, Monday.

“I’m so excited and relieved,” Manfredo said afterward, clutching a bouquet of flowers that served as a fill-in trophy until she receives her hardware at the all-county dinner. “I got my scholarship [to Bradley University], I won the conferences and now counties. Everything just seems to be going for me.”

Manfredo became the third Shoreham girl to win a county title and first since Jennifer LoRusso in 1999.

“She joins an elite group of Shoreham-Wading River players who have won county titles,” said Shoreham coach Debbie Lutjen.

Catherine Galvin, who played at Clemson University from 1997-2000, was a two-time county champion for Shoreham.

Early in the season, Manfredo never gave much thought to the county tournament, she said. But over the last few weeks, as she knocked off one goal after another, the impending tournament suddenly came into focus.

“In the last week, I was like ‘Oh, I can actually do this,’ ” she said. “Now I’m going to do this.”

The finals were a rematch of the Division IV tournament finals. Manfredo and Bukzin were playing for the third time this season. Manfredo won a three-set thriller in the regular season and then won 6-1, 6-1 in the division finals.

Manfredo struggled a bit at the outset Monday, falling behind 0-2 in the first set. Once she got her first point, she kept rolling from there, attacking the net to keep Bukzin scrambling from side to side.

“She’s prepared hard for this,” Lutjen said. “She’s worked hard and obviously this was her goal. She really played awesome this tournament.”

After taking the first set, Manfredo quickly jumped ahead 2-0 against Bukzin, who’s only an eighth-grader. Bukzin was one of the only players this year in the county who could really challenge Manfredo.

“When I play Jackie, I have to remind myself, she’s a good player, she’s a tournament player, I need to make good shots,” Manfredo said.

With four wins in the county tournament, Manfredo improved her record to 23-0 this season heading into the state championship starting Nov. 3. For her career, Manfredo is 86-19.

In the semifinals Monday, Manfredo defeated Stephanie Chikvashvili of Half Hollow Hills East, 6-0, 6-0. On Saturday in the first two rounds, she beat Kayla Reidy of Connetquot, 6-1, 6-0, and Rini Halder of Whitman, 6-2, 6-1.

“She’s peaking at the right time,” Lutjen said.

joew@timesreview.com

10/15/13 10:30pm
10/15/2013 10:30 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Shannon Merker plays for one of Bishop McGann-Mercy's All-County doubles teams.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shannon Merker plays for one of Bishop McGann-Mercy’s All-County doubles teams.

You can’t fight city hall.

To put a twist on that old saying, the Bishop McGann-Mercy girls tennis coach, Mike Clauberg, offers this: “You can’t fight Section XI.”

Clauberg, concerned about what Suffolk County’s interscholastic sports governing body will do with his team in regard to the upcoming county team tournament, may have been like many coaches early this week, anxious to see if their teams would be placed into the 24-team tournament and, if so, who their opponents would be.

A seeding meeting was planned for Tuesday morning. In the meantime, coaches played the waiting game. The tournament is scheduled to start with an outbracket match on Thursday.

“It’s the luck of the draw,” said Clauberg.

Mattituck (12-0), as the League VIII champion, is assured of one of those 24 playoff spots.

“You would like to see how you measure up against some of the other schools in the county,” said Tuckers coach Jim Christy, whose team concluded a perfect regular season last Wednesday with a 7-0 defeat of Hampton Bays. “The reality is, as in any sport, you’re going to end up, with the exception of one team, with a loss. So, you see how far you can go.”

The Tuckers enjoyed a tremendous regular season in which they won four matches by 4-3 scores. A big part of Mattituck’s success has been the play of younger players like eighth-grade third singles player Liz Dwyer and first doubles players Anna Kowalski and Courtney Penny, who are both sophomores. They are All-Division players and reached the Division IV Tournament quarterfinals on Monday, as did Mattituck’s first singles player, senior Molly Kowalski, who is Anna’s sister.

Mattituck’s singles lineup is strong. Kyra Martin, who plays second singles, won eight of 10 league matches. Dwyer went 12-0 in league play, and eighth-grader Emily Mowdy went 11-1.

But unlike last year, when the Tuckers relied heavily on singles, Christy said the Tuckers have been picking up points with stronger doubles play as well.

Kowalski and Penny went 10-2 during the regular season. Meanwhile, the two other doubles pairings — Christine Bieber and Melissa Hickox, and Julie Krudop and Haley Martin — went 8-4.

“They took it serious,” Christy said. “They went out and they competed, and they were rewarded for competing.”

Christy said he didn’t know how good of a season it would be until the team’s season-opening match, a 4-3 win over Southampton.

Christy, who expected his team to be seeded around 12th, said he is eager to see the bracket sheet released.

“You want to see who the first team is so you can kind of help the girls prepare for it,” he said, noting that the Tuckers will scrimmage William Floyd on Thursday in preparation for their playoff match.

McGann-Mercy’s 6-8 record (2-8 in League VII) may not be particularly impressive, but Clauberg is quick to point out that the Monarchs play in what he considers the toughest league in the county, with the exception of League I. “People don’t realize how competitive we are against the top teams,” he said. Clauberg pointed out that his team defeated Miller Place, a playoff team, by a 6-1 score.

Clauberg said his team, which reached the county quarterfinals the last three years, should be seeded anywhere between 12th and 18th.

McGann-Mercy’s top two doubles teams — the pairing of senior Shannon Merker and junior Delaney Macchirole, and the duo of senior Jackie Zaweski and junior Micaela Zeboroski — both earned All-County status this year by reaching the Division IV semifinals.

Despite being hit hard by injuries and not having as much depth as they had in the past, the Monarchs produced a 6-1 win over William Floyd in their final regular-season match on Friday to remain in postseason contention. They prevailed without one of their singles starters, sophomore Jamie Lessard, who attended a funeral that day.

Macchirole (4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) over Laura Kesnig), Katie Brownfield (6-3, 6-4 over Nicole Horn) and Nicole Gravagna (6-3, 6-3 over Emily Cereoli) brought the Monarchs wins at singles. In addition, the Monarchs swept the three doubles matches. Merker and Angelika Osiniak defeated Sarah Jurgielewicz and Cassie Rivera, 6-4, 6-3; Zaweski and Savannah Seijka beat Taylor Bourguignon and Julia Cutler, 6-1, 6-2; and Sally Burdiladize and Magda Duda were 6-0, 6-2 winners over Sam Quinn and Sam Skolas.

The only point McGann-Mercy lost was at first singles, with Jackie Dukzin handing Zeboroski a 6-0, 6-1 loss.

The Monarchs, who are in their third straight year in League VII, will be dropped down to League VIII next year, something that Clauberg is not happy about. There is a considerable difference in talent between the two leagues, and Clauberg likes the competition League VII offers his players.

“You want to be in League VII,” he said. “You want to play the top dog. It’s like being in an AP course.”

In the meantime, Clauberg was looking forward to a favorable seeding for his team in the county tournament. The waiting game continued for him and the other coaches.

“We’ll see,” Christy said. “You focus on the season and you basically think about everything after the season is over as kind of gravy. You relax and have a good time.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

10/15/13 8:21pm
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.”

10/07/13 7:00pm
10/07/2013 7:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Aimee Manfredo won 6-0, 6-0 Monday at first singles against Southampton’s Noa Dubin.

WILDCATS 4, MARINERS 3

Steady gusts of wind blew across the courts at Shoreham-Wading River Monday afternoon as a nearing storm drew closer. On any other day, the wind might have discouraged Aimee Manfredo, rattling her game ever so slightly.

But as Shoreham’s first singles player squared off against Southampton’s Noa Dubin — one of the top players in the division — she took the unfortunate weather all in stride.

“Usually the wind makes me really annoyed,” Manfredo said. “It’s just an annoying thing.”

But Manfredo had reason to be calm. After all, she had just verbally committed to play tennis next year at Bradley University in Illinois. At Bradley she’ll compete for a Division I program that plays in the competitive Missouri Valley Conference against schools like Southern Illinois, Wichita State and Northern Iowa. She can officially sign a National Letter of Intent on Nov. 13.

Even as the gusts whipped all around her, Manfredo cruised past Dubin, 6-0, 6-0 to lead the Wildcats to a 4-3 victory. Shoreham improved to 6-4 in League VIII and 7-7 overall.

For Manfredo, she kept her perfect record intact at 12-0 playing first singles.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River freshman Joelle Benigno won at second singles Monday, 6-0, 6-2.

“It was a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” Manfredo said of finalizing her college plans.

As Manfredo weighed her college options, she settled on choosing between Bradley, Siena and Bryant. She had briefly thought about the Air Force Academy, but decided she wanted more of the college experience over the regimented military structure.

Bradley offered her a full scholarship and provided the most competitive tennis opportunity.

“I wanted to go to college to play tennis and know I’m going to get better,” she said. “I wasn’t going to be [No.1] one at Bradley so I wanted to push myself.”

A year-round tennis player, Manfredo practices at her club five days a week, even during the school season. Now that she has her college choice behind her, she can shift her focus to the upcoming division and county tournaments.

Manfredo won the Division IV tournament last year and finished second in the county to earn her first trip to states.

She said she doesn’t think much about defending her division title or winning a county title. She focuses on trying to get better.

“I want to be the best I can before I go to college,” she said. “That’s my goal.”

While few players in the league can give Manfredo a real run for her money, she did get taken to the limit earlier in the season in a non-league match against Eastport-South Manor. In a rematch of last year’s division final, Manfredo needed three grueling sets to defeat Eastport’s rising star, Jackie Bukzin. Manfredo needed a tie-breaker in the third set to prevail.

“That was an awesome match,” said Shoreham coach Debbie Lutjen, who added that it was in the top four matches she’s ever seen as a high school coach.

Manfredo offered a less glowing review.

“I pretty much beat myself out on the court, which made it twice as hard to play her,” she said. “I’m already going bonkers and then it’s tougher to play a match. But I was able to pull it out in the end.”

Manfredo and Bukzin, an eighth-grader, could very well meet again in the division finals and possibly the county tournament.

Manfredo will likely enter the Division IV Tournament Saturday as the No. 1 seed and Bukzin will likely be the No. 2. The tournament at William Floyd High School features rounds one and two on Saturday. The quarterfinals and semifinals are Monday and the championship and consolation finals are Tuesday.

The Wildcats also won second and third singles Monday against Southampton. The young duo of sisters Joelle and Daniella Benigno both picked up straight set wins. Joelle, a freshman, won 6-0, 6-2 at second singles. Daniella, an eighth-grader, won 6-0, 6-0 at third singles.

Manfredo said both girls have started playing at the same club where she practices.

“They’re coming along really good,” she said. “I love them both. They’re still pretty young, so I’m hoping they can take over when I’m gone.”

Shoreham also won at second doubles with the duo of Heather Sager and Amanda DeTiberis picking up a 6-1, 6-1 victory.

The Wildcats close out the regular season with matches against Southold/Greenport and Wednesday and Riverhead Thursday.

joew@timesreview.com

09/13/13 7:40pm
09/13/2013 7:40 PM

MARINERS 4, BLUE WAVES 3

So, what is a high school girls tennis coach to do when he’s searching for just the right first doubles team?

Answer: Pair together two players with singles backgrounds. What else?

Knowing full well the value of a first doubles team and what it can do for a team’s lineup, Riverhead coach Jerry Duvall spent the first couple of weeks of the new season mixing and matching, trying to find the right partner for his team captain, Lydia Keiffert.

In the first three matches of the season, Keiffert played with three different partners at first doubles. The senior teamed up with Jessica Purick, then with Cassidy Brown and then on Friday with Courtney Troyan. By the way, Riverhead won all three of those first doubles matches.

As it turns out, Troyan may be the one that works best. The sophomore, a varsity rookie, played first singles for the junior varsity team last year and third and fourth singles in the first two matches of this season. She worked well with Keiffert on Friday when the two combined for a 7-5, 6-1 win over Southampton freshmen Julia Kepczynska and Marcelina Kropiwnicka.

Afterward, referring to his search for the best first doubles combination, Duvall said, “I think I may have found it.”

Southampton’s only doubles win of the day proved decisive, though, giving the Mariners a 4-3 victory at Riverhead High School. Southampton improved its record to 2-2, 2-1 in Suffolk County League VII. Riverhead is 1-2, 1-2.

With the team score even at 3-3, Southampton’s second doubles team of Maria Neknez and Megan Goleski prevailed, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, over Purick and Abigail Wehunt. Purick and Wehunt were on the precipice of going down earlier, but staged an impressive comeback from a 5-1 deficit in the second set.

The pairing of Keiffert and Troyan, who never played together before, may have been the best thing to come out of the match for Riverhead. The two players share similar attributes. Both are athletic, move well on the court and have an affinity for doubles.

“They both have net skills,” Duvall said. “They can move and cover the court. That makes it a tough number one team.”

Keiffert, Riverhead’s only four-year varsity player, has played singles and doubles fairly equally over the course of her time with the Blue Waves. “Last year I was second singles, so it was almost expected that I would play first singles this year,” she said. “For my last year I wanted to enjoy the sport, and I knew I could get most enjoyment out of doubles.”

Troyan said that she, like Keiffert, feels more comfortable playing doubles.

Both players spoke about the benefit of having a teammate on the court next to them during a match.

“When you’re getting your water, switching sides, there’s always someone there to talk to you,” Keiffert said. “You’re down, and there’s always someone there to bring you up, and you don’t realize how much that truly improves your game when you have someone constantly there, cheering you on.”

With only one practice as doubles partners the day before, the two Riverheaders meshed together quite well, and quickly.

“We’ve never played doubles together, and I think we did really well, and we’re going to be playing a lot together in the future,” said Troyan.

A 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-3 win by Brown over Keynu Banks at third singles tied the teams at 3-3. It was only Riverhead’s second singles win this season.

Riverhead’s other point came from the third doubles pairing of Danielle Alaimo and Kate Prijakina. They bounced back after dropping the first set, 6-3, to Pauline Dela Cruz and Johanna Moore, by taking the last two sets, 6-3, 6-2.

Southampton was strong in singles, though. The Mariners have junior Noa Dubin, one of the top players in the league. She cruised in her first singles match against junior Sam Carter, 6-0, 6-0.

The string on Carter’s racket popped while she returned the first serve of the match, and she had to use a backup racket she had not played with in a year. (It was Friday the 13th). The racket change clearly threw her game off. She didn’t score her first point until the second game of the second set. Dubin used 17 service aces and outpointed Carter, 48-9. The first set was completed in 14 minutes and the match was over in 31 minutes.

Carter said she had never broken a racket during a match before. “First time,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Duvall said Carter, who played third doubles last year, has come a long way with her game. “She’s three levels above what she was last year,” he said.

The other singles contests brought similar results in Southampton’s favor: Cecilia Schuerer beat Katharine Chmielewski, 6-1, 6-0, and Jade Kalbacher downed Amy Methven, 6-0, 6-1.

It has been an exciting start to the season for Riverhead. The Blue Waves’ first three matches have been 4-3 results, including a win over Hampton Bays and a loss to Mattituck.

“It’s a pleasure to coach this team,” Duvall said. “They’re unselfish players. They’re there rooting for each other, so it’s just fun to come to practice every day.”

bliepa@timesreview.com