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.


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.

[email protected]

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.”

[email protected]

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.


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.


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.

[email protected]

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


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.”

[email protected]

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.


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.”

[email protected]

10/23/12 7:44pm
10/23/2012 7:44 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | McGann-Mercy senior Cassidy Lessard competes at the division championship last week. The Monarchs won Tuesday against Ward Melville in the team playoffs to advance to the quarterfinals.


As the match unfolded Tuesday between eighth-seeded McGann-Mercy and No. 9 Ward Melville, it became clear only one path to victory existed for the Monarchs: Sweep the three doubles matches and find a way to win one singles match.

Sounds simple enough.

Only the Monarchs were without their No. 2 singles player, senior Marianne Naleski, who was out sick. The remaining singles players had to bump up one spot.

And then there was still the problem at first doubles, where the Monarchs were going up against an all-county duo from Ward Melville.

“I knew it was going to be a close match,” said Mercy coach Mike Clauberg. “I knew it was going to be tough.”

When Mercy’s first doubles duo of sophomores Delaney Macchirole and Micaela Zebroski pulled out a victory, it came down to fourth singles. And junior Jackie Zaweski delivered a clutch victory to seal a 4-3 victory for Mercy, sending the Monarchs into the quarterfinals Wednesday against No. 1 Half Hollow Hills East.

It’s the third straight year Mercy has advanced into the quarterfinals.

“These girls really came up big today,” Clauberg said.

Zaweski has rotated between doubles and singles this season, so moving into the fourth singles spot wasn’t something new. She won the first set against Caitlin Falvey 6-1, but things weren’t so smooth in the second set. She fell behind 5-4 and was on the brink of going to a decisive third set. She fought back to tie the match at 6 and send it to a tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker she won 7-2, giving her a 7-6 victory to clinch the victory for Mercy.

“She played a great tiebreaker,” Clauberg said. “This girl was good, but Jackie played everything down. When the girl came to the net she lobbed it over her head. She really had a great game.”

At first doubles Macchirole and Zebroski won 6-1, 6-4 for the all-important victory.

The second and third doubles teams took care of business with two-set wins.

Junior Shannon Merker and freshman Jamie Lessard won 6-0, 6-3 at second doubles. Freshmen Kathleen Brownfiel and Margaret Naleski won 6-0, 6-0 at third doubles.

Mercy’s first singles player, senior Cassidy Lessard, had to go up against Sabrina Ferretti, who was third in the Division III singles tournament.

“It was a real close match,” Clauberg said. “Cassidy was winning throughout the first set. She was up 5-4 and couldn’t put it down.”

Ferretti came back to won the first set 7-5. In the second set she lost 6-4.

The loss at first singles added the pressure on the doubles teams, which had no room for error.

Having the match on their home courts proved to be beneficial for the Monarchs.

“Being at home is definitely an advantage,” Clauberg said.

The Monarchs will have their hands full Wednesday against the top team in the county in Hills East. The Thunderbirds have one of the top players in the county in Vanessa Scott and a deep lineup after her with skilled players at every position.

[email protected]

10/22/12 7:08pm
10/22/2012 7:08 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River junior Aimee Manfredo won her semifinal match Monday before falling in the finals of the Section XI tournament.

One by one the courts at Smithtown East High School emptied out. The doubles championship and consolation matches. The singles consolation match. Even a practice by the Smithtown tennis team started and finished.

All that remained were two players on the northwest court slugging it out for the Section XI singles title Monday afternoon.

Fittingly, the match between the top two players in Suffolk County went an exhausting three sets. Shoreham-Wading River junior Aimee Manfredo already had punched her ticket to the state tournament and had her eyes set on a county title when she rolled to a 6-1 victory in the first set against Half Hollow Hills West senior Zenat Rashidzada.

But after taking 3-2 lead in the second set, Rashidzada never looked back to come from behind and defeat a tiring Manfredo, 6-3, 6-2 and claim her first singles title. Rashidzada was a finalist in the county tournament last year.

Manfredo played brilliantly in the first set, using her speed to send Rashidzada scrambling across the court. She placed her serve where she needed and rarely made unforced errors.

By the second and third sets, Manfredo said she was having trouble getting to balls she had been in the first set.

“And I felt like I wasn’t making my shots like I was in the first set,” she said.

It was the first loss for Manfredo this season after 17 straight victories landed her a spot in the county finals. It was also the first match Manfredo played this season that extended to three sets.

“Every match is a learning experience,” said Shoreham coach Debbie Lutjen. “She was on fire that first set. So you have to learn, how do I maintain that focus and stay in that zone that she was in.”

Manfredo became the first Shoreham tennis player to earn a trip to the state tournament since Jennifer LoRusso in 2000 (LoRusso is also the last Shoreham county champion after winning as a junior in 1999). She did so by defeating Eastport-South Manor seventh-grader Jackie Bukzin in the semifinals, 6-4, 6-2. It was a rematch of the Division IV final from last week, which Manfredo also won in two sets.

Manfredo said the wind was much less of a factor in the semifinals compared to when she faced Bukzin in the division finals.

“The first set was tight like I thought it was going to be,” she said. “But then I kind of pulled ahead in the second set and I felt really good.”

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Aimee Manfredo and Eastport-South Manor seventh-grader Jackie Bukzin shake hands after the semifinal match Monday.

While the first two rounds were supposed to be completed Saturday, Manfredo was forced to play the second set of her quarterfinal match Monday as well. Her match against Sara Dionisio of Longwood couldn’t be completed Saturday due to darkness, so the two resumed the action Monday before the semifinals.

In the end, Manfredo played six sets of tennis, all of which were competitive.

Manfredo did her best to prepare for the long day by eating PowerBars and drinking plenty of water.

Manfredo and Rashidzada got a break after the second set. Manfredo said her focus was on staying positive and making her shots. “Not try to make it too easy for her to win, even though I was really tired,” she said.

Manfredo started the third set with the serve, which had been to her advantage most of the match. The two went back-and-forth in what was one of the hardest earned points of the match. Rashidzada finally got the point to take the pivotal early lead in the decisive set.

Manfredo bounced back to win the next point and tie the match. But Rashidzada responded with two quick points to gain the momentum back.

“Aimee has the game,” Lutjen said. “She has the strokes. She’s a great player. She just has to learn to stay positive and stay focused.”

It’s been a steady progression each season for Manfredo, who began her varsity career as a seventh grader. As a freshman she lost in the quarterfinals of the division tournament. Last season she won her first division title before losing in the quarterfinals of the county tournament.

Now, she’s headed to states.

“Aimee met her goals,” Lutjen said. “She wanted to go to the state tournament and she did accomplish that.”

Manfredo’s loss in the quarterfinals last year was also against Rashidzada. In that match Rashidzada won 6-3, 7-5.

Manfredo will have a bit of a break before the state tournament. The team playoffs begin Tuesday and runs through Oct. 30, which is the Long Island championship.

The individual state tournament begins Nov. 4. at the Tri-City Tennis Center in Latham.

“I want to have fun and I also want to win a match,” Manfredo said. “I’ve never been to states before so I don’t really know what it’s like.”

She’ll find out soon enough.

[email protected]