08/13/14 10:59am
08/13/2014 10:59 AM
Tournament director Jim Christy presenting a scholarship to Molly Kowalski before the women's singles final on Friday. Declining player participation has brought an end to the 36-year tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Tournament director Jim Christy presenting a scholarship to Molly Kowalski before the women’s singles final on Friday. Declining player participation has brought an end to the 36-year tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Like a once-bloated balloon, the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament deflated as player participation curiously dwindled and dwindled in recent years. Finally, that balloon popped.

The news that, after 36 years, the plug has been pulled on the tournament was greeted with sadness and puzzlement by players and others. Times/Review Newsgroup announced last week that it was withdrawing its sponsorship of the tournament in light of declining player participation. (more…)

08/03/14 7:56pm
08/03/2014 7:56 PM
Chris Ujkic delivered 17 winners on Sunday when he won his eighth straight men's singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Chris Ujkic delivered 17 winners on Sunday when he won his eighth straight men’s singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament. (Credit: Garret Meade)

BOB WALL MEMORIAL TENNIS TOURNAMENT

Will Clemans hit some fantastic shots. He pulled out every trick in his book and played quite well in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament men’s singles final. Afterward, he acknowledged that he had done just about everything he could. It was a performance he could feel good about.

And he lost, 6-2, 6-1, to Chris Ujkic.

The top-seeded Ujkic’s potent mix of athleticism, superb conditioning and tennis know-how enabled him to walk off with the men’s singles title for the eighth consecutive year on Sunday afternoon at Mattituck High School. (more…)

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

07/30/13 3:16pm
07/30/2013 3:16 PM

Richard Chizever’s late father, Larry, was well known in the Riverhead area for being a tennis player, a coach and a fun-loving person. But he was also a consummate competitor and a relentless trash talker.

“He did it in a nice way,” Richard said. “He would get under your skin, though.”

Richard recalled an incident about 33 years ago when he and his father drove to Mattituck High School to play a match against each other. As was his custom, Larry found a way to agitate his son during the match. “I was so ticked off at him, I wouldn’t drive home with him,” Richard said. “I walked all the way home to Riverhead.”

The occasional trash talking aside, Richard learned a lot from his father, who he lost about nine years ago. Larry suffered a massive stroke while in recovery from a bilateral hip replacement. He remained in a vegetative condition for six years before he died.

The passion Larry had for tennis, though, lives on in his son. Larry was a standout football and baseball player in Brooklyn. After moving to Riverhead, he was turned on to tennis and became hooked. He encouraged his son to play.

Richard, 57, continues playing the sport he was introduced to by his father. A former Riverhead High School player, Richard figures he has been playing tennis seriously for 44 years. Aside from the occasional aches and pains those on the older side of 50 typically experience, he said his conditioning has improved since he hurt his back in a tournament this past February. “Right now I’m playing some of the best tennis I’ve played in my life,” he said.

On Saturday, the second-seeded Chizever will defend his men’s 50-plus singles title in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament when he will play No. 4 seed John Czartosieski at Robert W. Tasker Park in Peconic. It was Czartosieski who ousted Chizever in the first round of men’s open singles, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Chizever and his men’s 50-plus doubles partner, Bob Lum, will also play in a final on Saturday. That top-seeded duo will be seeking its fifth men’s 50-plus doubles title when they go up against No. 2 Tom Cahill and Ed Lee.

“He’s my guru,” Chizever said of Lum, who is the Riverhead High School boys tennis coach. “He knows the game better than anybody I ever played with. He brings out the best in you.”

Interestingly, what Chizever learned most about tennis may have been less technical than mental. Larry was an unorthodox left-handed player, and Richard is a righty.

“He taught me more about the will to win than rather the actual strokes,” Richard said. “He was just a great competitor. He used to say it’s the fire in your belly. If you have the fire in your belly, you can win. He taught me how to enjoy the sport, how to go out there and win.”

Richard, who resides in Aquebogue and has worked as an optician in Southold for 27 years, learned a lot as a young player. He was among a group of high school players who played against older men in their 40s. “We really learned the finesse of a sport,” he said. “We used to tell coaches we played like old men.”

According to Richard, he hasn’t gone more than six months without playing since he first picked up a tennis racket. He said he regrets not having played tennis in college (Ohio University), but he values the friendships he made through tennis over the years. One of the things he likes best about tennis is the social component. He said it gives him the opportunity to play against people he otherwise would not have met.

And then, of course, there is the competition.

“It’s a sport that you use everything,” Chizever said. “You use every part of your body, including your mind.”

Jim Christy, the director of the Bob Wall Memorial Tournament, said Chizever symbolizes what the tournament is about.

“In Rich’s case, he just enters to have fun,” Christy said. “He moves along, but he has such a great disposition. He generally enjoys playing. It doesn’t matter whether the player is very strong or very weak. He never shows anybody up.”

Christy said he sees similarities between Richard and his father in terms of personality.

“His father was just an absolute gem of a man,” Christy said. “You could not not like Larry Chizever. He’d talk your ear off. He had such a great sense of humor.”

Of course, this is nothing new. Richard has heard people talk about his father and how he loved life many times before.

“People would come up to me and say you are lucky to have such a great father,” Richard said. “I would say to them, ‘You have no idea how lucky I was.’ ”

bliepa@timesreview.com